Military Moral Waivers Explained
General Military Questions

Military Moral Waivers Explained

There are many reasons that one might need a waiver to enter into the Military.

A moral waiver, or conduct waiver, is needed when an individual has a history of criminal activity.

Criminal activity can include everything from fines to felonies.

The guidelines for each branch of the Military, including the Coast Guard, are the same, but approvals differ.

This article will cover what a moral waiver is, why you would need one, and what to include on the waiver, plus answers to frequently asked questions.

Continue reading for Military moral waivers explained in detail.

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What is a moral waiver?

Moral waiver
Air National Guard member enlisting with a religious accommodation waiver. Image:

A moral waiver is required when an individual has enacted in conduct that is against moral guidelines established by the Secretary of Defense.

Each job specialty has specific requirements related to the conduct and personal moral history a person can/cannot have.

Moral waivers relate to criminal history of the person attempting to join the Military.

It is used when there is a final finding by a court or other authority (ex: arbitration) that results in conviction or adverse adjudication.

Essentially any court ruling that results in actual confinement, probation, parole, or fines need a moral waiver to join.

Court rulings require a moral waiver even if you do not serve actual jail/prison time or are pardoned.

In some circumstances, if you post a monetary or collateral amount to bail out for a violation (even traffic) you will need a moral waiver.

Any juvenile offenses (including expunged) and non-judicial findings are also required to have a moral waiver.

Determination of Moral Qualifications and Waivers

All branches of service must follow the guidelines set by the Secretary of Defense in 32 CFR § 66.7 and DoDI 1304.26.

This section states that conduct (moral) waivers are required with either a major misconduct offense, misconduct offenses, a pattern of misconduct or a combination of offenses occur.

A waiver is required for:

  • One major misconduct offense or
  • Two misconduct offenses or
  • A Pattern of misconduct with either A.) One misconduct and four “non-traffic” offenses or B.) Five or more non-traffic offenses

Each type of misconduct is classified by it’s severity.

Generally speaking felonies, or any charges where confinement lasts over a year is considered a major misconduct.

Misconduct is any offenses that have confinement times of six months to one year.

All offenses are categorized with Offense Codes that are used to group them between Traffic, non-traffic, misconduct and major misconduct.

The lower the number, the less severe the crime, and more likely it is to be approved on a waiver.

You may need a moral waiver if you have a large amount of traffic fines that for unforeseen circumstances, remained unpaid for a large amount of time.

More severe instances may include a DUI (Driving Under Influence) that was dropped to a negligence charge.

While you may not have a DUI on your record, and did not serve actual jail time, this charge is still against the standards set for Military personnel.

You may not need a waiver for single instances of fines (receiving a fine for no seat belt), but a combination of a few small instances could result in a waiver being required.

The type of crime will also change who has to sign the waiver.

Charges that are lower in severity, such as misconduct or multiple (5+) traffic violations will require Commanding Officer signatures, while higher severity (major misconduct, misconduct) will require individuals of higher command.

Any crimes that involve rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault or similar sexual offense crimes, or any crimes that require you to register as a sex offender result in an automatic permanent disqualification and no waivers are authorized.

Related Article: Military Disqualifications For Mental Health

Moral Waiver Process

The first step to the waiver process is to be upfront and honest with your recruiter about any past criminal or civil activity that may fall into the category described above.

You cannot apply for (or enlist) within 90 days of being released from confinement, if you currently have unpaid fines, or have a significant criminal record.

Applicants must also wait until they have completed their probation or parole.

After the 90 days, you may work with your recruiter on completing a waiver.

Things to remember:

  • Completing a waiver does not result in automatic approval
  • Felonies are very hard to be approved
  • Waivers are sent when applying to enter into service

The exact form for applying for a conduct waiver differs between branches but all of them will require similar information.

To apply for a conduct waiver, you will need to submit the waiver form prior to the reviewing board convening.

Required timing to submit your request to the board will vary based on the branch and type of mitigating circumstance (serious misconduct, misconduct or other).

For example, the Army requires you to submit a request for waiver at least eight weeks prior to the board’s deadline for serious and major misconduct offenses.

Your recruiter will let you know the board’s deadline so you can adequately prepare.

The conduct waiver request will include the specific details of the offense including the name of the offense, the charge, where it took place and the punishment.

You will also be required to include an explanation of the offense (who, what, where, when, how), and lessons learned from the event.

To increase your chances of the waiver being approved, you should note how you will contribute to the Military service and how it will impact you in return.

It is also best to include any supporting documentation you can find such as police reports, court documents or other legal copies.

The board will consider the, “whole person” when making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How long does it take for a moral waiver to be approved?

Moral waivers can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to be approved.

This can vary between branch and the number of waivers they have received.

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2. What can I do if my moral waiver is denied?

If your moral waiver is denied there is not an appeal process.

Essentially you are not qualified for the Military when you applied.

Submitting a waiver is your appeal to be entered into the Military.

If it is denied, you cannot attempt to appeal it through that branch.

However, different branches have personnel needs and may approve the waiver.

3. Can I apply to a different branch if my waiver was denied?

In a short answer, yes, you can apply to a different branch if your waiver is denied.

When discussing whether to approve the waiver the entire person is considered.

What this means is that they consider you as a person, what impacts you will make and if you are needed enough to look over the reason that you applied.

One branch may have a high demand of people enlisting and deny your waiver because they have enough people to meet demands who do not need a waiver.

Another branch may not have as many people enlisting and approve your waiver based on their needs and how they see you fitting in to their personnel goals.


Military Moral Waivers
Recruit meeting with an Air Force Recruiter. Image:

Military moral (conduct) waivers are available when you have a criminal history, but would like to join the Military.

All branches of service use the same requirements for completing a waiver.

When filling out a waiver you will be required to use as much detail as possible, include court documents and any statements.

Each waiver is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Your waiver will be considered by looking not only at your crimes, but your ability to successfully contribute.

It is possible to get a waiver approval from one branch and not the other.

For your best chances of success, be honest and take ownership.

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Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)

Originally posted on 03/03/20

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