What Is Sound Moral Character
Statistically, 1 in 3 adults has a criminal conviction in the United States. This means that there are approximately 70 million people who must contend with a less-than-stellar background check when applying for opportunities in the US Air Force.
The majority of those 70 million people want nothing more than to get on with their lives and be productive members of society.
Strictly defined, moral character is the existence of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty. In other words, it means that youre a good person and a good citizen with a good head for what is right and wrong. Sound moral character also means that you have a respect for authority including state and federal law.
Armed conflict has its own set of laws called the Geneva Convention for Rules of Engagement that dictates the humane treatment of wounded or captured military personnel, medical personnel and non-military civilians during a war or armed conflicts.
In recent news, a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL was recently arrested for shooting civilians who were classified as noncombatants. At the time, he was serving as a medic with Naval Special Warfare Group One based out of San Diego.
This is what makes the United States different than some of its adversaries the U.S. attempts to avoid civilian casualties in a time of war.
Therefore, in many cases, a felony conviction could prevent a person from joining the military.
So, is all hope lost? Not yet.
Can You Join The Military With A Felony Record
So, you have a felony conviction on your record? Maybe a misdemeanor? You messed up and want to move on with your life. The military looks appealing to you, but you worry that your felony will keep you from being recruited.
Our organization, Help For Felons, has all of the information you must know in order to have the best chance of joining the military with a felony.
Military Recruiting Felons: Four Categories Of Offenses
Not all branches of the military handle crimes the same way, but the Army uses four categories of offenses. These include:
- Those with six or more minor traffic offenses
- Three or more minor non-traffic offenses
- Two or more misdemeanors
- One or more felonies
If you fall into one of these categories, you will need a waiver to join the Army. This is basically the case in any branch of the military, although other branches may be stricter.
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Can I Join The Military If I Have A Felony Conviction
Its possible to join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard with a felony conviction.
With that said, it is an uphill battle.
In general, the 5 branches of the military are looking for candidates with a sound moral character.
Often, a felony is looked at as a failure to meet that standard.
As discussed earlier, whether or not you can join the military with a felony conviction really depends on several factors.
- What your felony conviction was for.
- If you are currently on parole or probation.
- If youre currently in jail, prison, or facing criminal proceedings.
- Whether or not your felony conviction was as a minor or legal adult.
- Your moral history
- The current needs of the military.
Lets discuss some of these individually to get an idea of what is an enlistment killer and what isnt.
Be Honest With Your Recruiter
If you want to make sure you dont enlist, lie to your recruiter about a felony or another criminal offense. Even if you were arrested, but not changes, you still need to report this to your recruiter. Give them the 100% truth because if you get caught telling a lie, you will likely not have a chance of joining the military.
A few other crimes that will disqualify you include:
- Getting drunk or being on drugs during the enlistment process
- Getting kicked out of the military for alcohol/drug abuse
- Three or more drunk driving convictions
- Being on parole or probation
- If you have a history of selling or using marijuana
You cannot use the military to escape pending charges. If you try to join, they will find out before you make it into the enlistment process.
Make sure youre fully honest if you want to join the military. Felons may still have a chance, but you cannot lie about your crimes or you will lose your opportunity before the military recruiting process starts.
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How To Get Into The Military If You Have A Juvenile Record
Joining the military with a juvenile record isn’t unheard of. A juvenile record may create additional work for you and your recruiter, but it is possible. In most cases, you can enlist with a moral waiver granted by the military. Moral waivers are given only to recruits who are not likely to pose a discipline problem if they are allowed in. Your recruiter will apply for one on your behalf.
Contact a recruiter and let him know you wish to enlist. Tell him you have a juvenile record, but that you may qualify for a moral waiver.
Set up an appointment to meet your recruiter. Show up on time. Your recruiter needs to know you are serious about enlisting in the military before he will apply for a moral waiver on your behalf.
Bring your birth certificate, your Social Security card and all documents you have that pertain to your juvenile criminal record. Your recruiter will need your birth certificate and your Social Security card. He will need this information to enter into the military recruiting system. Your court documents will assist him in preparing your waiver application.
Contact your recruiter after three or four days, to follow up on the status of your waiver. Generally, your recruiter will call you as soon as he receives an approval or denial however, sometimes recruiters are busy and he may have forgotten to call you.
About the Author
What Military Branch Accepts Felons
If felons want to join the US Military, they can face multiple challenges in the eyes of law. Every day approximately 1000 people both men and women get convicted for various crimes. Felons with misdemeanor felonies can join the military as prospects.
Felons with serious felonies such as drug distribution, rape, drinking and driving cases, etc. fail to pass the stringent guidelines of the US Military. 5 branches of the Military look for felons with sound moral character, these include Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine or Coast Guards along with a felony conviction. Felons who fail to demonstrate honesty and sound moral character cannot become a part of the US Military.
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Why Sealed And Expunged Dont Matter
You may have been a teen when you committed the felony, which means your record could be sealed. However, nothing is sealed from the U.S. Government and a felony will be found by the military if you try to join.
You could get your felony expunged from your record, but the government and military will still find out about it. This wont help your case if you have a serious offense on your record.
The Moral Character Screening Process
Each of the six branches of the United States Armed Forces the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard have different recruiting criteria. Moreover, each branch requires its applicants to undergo strict moral character standards and must meet federal regulations when it comes to accepting applicants with criminal records.
Moral character screening is the procedure by which military recruiters review applicants criminal backgrounds and credit. The object of this screening process is to identify those individuals who may have disciplinary problems or who could harm the militarys mission. In addition to initial screening mechanisms, such as performing criminal background checks, recruiters will also conduct interviews of applicants with criminal histories.
The moral character screening process is lengthy and comprehensive. An applicants conviction will be evaluated based on the nature and severity of the offense. Moreover, applicants are required to disclose any incidents that resulted in an arrest or in charges being filed.
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Obtaining A Waiver For A Criminal Record
Pursuant to Section 571.3, the military can choose to waive certain offenses and meet the basic qualifications for enlistment. Applicants who require a waiver are not qualified for enlistment until a waiver is approved. The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that his or her acceptance will benefit the military, regardless of his or her criminal past. If you need one of these waivers, you are not alone. Nearly 12% of all army recruits required waivers for their criminal records in order to join.
Recruiters themselves do not have waiver approval/disapproval authority. Some waivers can be approved/disapproved by the Recruiting Battalion Commander, other waivers must be approved/disapproved by the Commanding General of the Army Recruiting Command. Unless otherwise stated in the waiver document, waivers are valid for six months.
Waiver authorities will consider the “whole person” concept when considering waiver applications. Having a conviction expunged, vacated, set aside or sealed increases the chances of receiving a waiver. While you still need to disclose a cleared conviction, having it cleared shows that the court has forgiven the offense or considers your rehabilitated. Contact an attorney who specializes in record clearing to discuss your options on increasing your chances on obtaining a waiver or removing the requirement to obtain a waiver.
If I Have My Juvenile Record Sealed Can I Join The Military
- Posted on Mar 19, 2013
Generally the answer is no. They recruiters usually request a form form you so that they can review all your juvenile records. Also please remember that in Texas the military will have access to the secured database belonging to DPS. This data base may show the juvenile records.
Bobby Barina’s answer to a legal question on Avvo does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Mr. Barina offers everyone a free consultation to discuss their case. Feel free to call his office at 254-699-3755 to make an appointment or visit his website at www.bobbybarina.com for more information about his services.
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Can I Join The Army With A Felony
*Updated December 2015
One of the most common questions we get is Can I Join the Army if I have a Felony. This FAQ answers that question and outlines what other offenses may keep you from joining the U.S. Army.
All branches of the military are different when it comes to recruiting standards, but they all have regulations regarding felonies. The military maintains a high moral standard for recruits and is the basis for not allowing most felonies. If the felony occurred when you were a juvenile you have a better chance of getting in the military but if the felony occurred as an adult you may have a hard time getting in, if at all. In either case it all comes down to the type of offense and how long ago it was.
When you apply to the military you are required to tell the recruiting of any incidents that resulted in arrest or in charges being filed. It is a felony not to disclose this information. Theres no such thing as a sealed or expunged record, as far as the military is concerned. The military requires that such records be revealed on enlistment and security clearance paperwork. Failure to do so is a felony.
Congress and the courts have held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ensures all individuals are treated equally before the law with respect to civilian employment, does not apply to the military profession. No less than seven major Supreme Court decisions are distilled in the these words from Goldman v. Weinberger:
Reasons Felons Should Be Honest When Trying To Join The Navy
Going the prison isnt the end of the world. But there are certain privileges you might lose because of the situation. For instance, attempting to join the navy or seeking a job. It might be difficult. But being honest can make the impossible possible.
The navy or employer would still conduct thorough background checks, but speaking the truth will enable the enlistment officer to accept that you have changed.
The thing is even if you are applying for a waiver, the recruitment can still disqualify you. So the most important thing is to show remorse and does not be disrespectful. Again, prove that what transpired that lead to your arrest was entirely your fault. Do not try to shift the blame to someone else. Doing so will do you no good.
There are things felons are expected to do when enlisting to join the navy. The navy is one of the military outfits with a high reputation that is why they always go for the best candidates. A sound moral character is one of the things they consider when recruiting people. And facing a felony charge does not prove you are a good fit for the job. But depending on the felony, you can apply for a waiver to enlist in the navy.
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Definitions And General Guidelines
Juvenile: If a recruit has a determination by a judge or jury in juvenile court proceedings that the juvenile is guilty of crimes, for purposes of a waiver, processing will be based on the severity of the specific offense for which an applicant was adjudged. The offense’s severity will be determined by the Uniform Guide List for Typical Offenses, above or by the notes contained therein if the offense is not specifically listed by name. Once the request for a moral waiver is at the proper decision level, factors such as the applicant’s age at the time of the offense, the actual sentence imposed by the court, etc., will be considered.
Community Service: Applicants who have been directed by judicial authority to perform community service are not eligible for enlistment until such service has been completed and the appropriate waiver has been granted.
Conviction: If determined “guilty” by a judge or jury, whether reduced for expediency or not, as in “plea-bargaining,” or plea to a reduced or lesser charge will be waived at the level appropriate for the original charges if eligible for waiver.
Probation: The suspension of a sentence of an individual convicted but not yet imprisoned for that conviction, on condition of continued good behavior and regular reporting to a probation officer or other agent designated by the court. Regional legal terms synonymous to “probation” will be treated exactly as probation is used throughout this information page.
Can The Military See My Records If They Are Expunged
If you have received a juvenile conviction and are hoping to join the military, there are some things to consider. Most juveniles have sealed records, meaning that they are not open to the public. Furthermore, in most cases, by the time you reach 21 years of age, any juvenile convictions can be expunged or pardoned. In these cases, most people are not allowed to view your criminal record.
However, the military and other federal agencies will have access to your criminal record. This does not necessarily mean that you will not be accepted to the military if you apply for a position however, it is important to understand how to fill out your application to the military and how to approach the experience.
Almost all juvenile files are sealed, which means that the public cannot access them. However, federal agencies, including the military, can access sealed records. As a result, it is a good idea to alert the military to juvenile convictions on your application, seeing as they will find out about them anyway when they conduct a background check on you. If you are upfront about your past mistakes, the military might still accept you.
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One Example: Army Standards
Heres a good example of how one branch of military servicethe United States Armyhandles its moral conduct waiver issues. According to the Army official site, a moral waiver is necessary when an applicant comes to the recruitment process with a conviction or other adverse adjudication which may include but is not limited to:
- Applicants who have been ordered to submit bail or collateral for a violation of any law
- Certain expungements
- Juvenile offenses
In recruitment situations where these issues are present, the Army requires a waiver application and approval process. The waiver requires personal statements from the recruit giving full details of all contact with law enforcement as relevant to the waiver.
Supporting evidence, letters from friends and family, court documents, and other paperwork is required to support your case. Waivers are NOT automatic, and review of the waivers takes time.
Recruits should know that time is of the essencethere is a limited amount of time you can be given to apply for the waiver and have it considered by an Army board. Those with serious crimes under review should know that major misconduct offenses require a General Officer endorsement and there is an eight week deadline for submission prior to the board convening.
You may have an easier time obtaining a waiver in the Army, Navy, or Air Force than the Marine Corps depending on recruiting issues at the time.
A Strong Economy Means Fewer People Joining The Military
When the economy lags or goes into recession, many people turn to the military for financial stability.
However, when the U.S. job market is strong, college enrollments plummet and the U.S. Army has trouble meeting its recruiting goals. This is largely a result of high school graduates having their pick of a number of high paying civilian jobs immediately after graduation.
Currently, the U.S. economy has added new jobs for 102 months straight the longest hot streak in American history. It is partly because of this economic hot streak that the Army has had trouble filling its ranks with willing soldiers. In addition, because of fitness and weight requirements, 70% of Americas youth do not meet the standards for enlistment. But there is another standard that the U.S. Army requires as well.
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