Can a Criminal Record Affect Your Ability To Enroll in Military Service?

female soldier saluting flag
People with criminal records can face difficulty enlisting in the military. In some cases, a record can even prevent someone from joining altogether. However, the military has several waivers that can help people with minor criminal records enlist. If you are interested in enlisting, it is important to speak to a military law attorney about your specific situation.

Types of Crimes on a Criminal Record and How To Go About Them When Enlisting

When you enlist in the military, you are agreeing to abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This code sets out the rules that all members of the military must follow. While you will be subject to complete background checks before being accepted into the military, it is very important to orally disclose your past convictions to your military recruiter when you apply for military service. Not doing so may automatically make you ineligible for a waiver.

That said, let’s look at the various types of crimes and how to handle them if you plan on enlisting to join any arm of the United States military.


All military branches take felonies seriously. In this instance, the process of getting a waiver is not easy, but with the right resources and guidance, you can make it happen. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

a. Make sure you have all of the information required for your waiver application. This includes your criminal history, any relevant letters or documents from law enforcement, and proof that you have undergone rehabilitation or counseling. 

b. Don't wait until the last minute to apply for a waiver. The sooner you start the process, the better chance you have of being successful. 

c. Don't let your past prevent you from achieving your goals. If you are determined to join the military, work hard to get through the waiver process and prove that you are worth inclusion in the ranks.


Some misdemeanors, such as traffic infractions and minor non-traffic offenses, can be waived if the individual can provide a satisfactory explanation for their actions. However, while misdemeanors are more easily granted waivers than felony offenses, of course, these too are on a case-by-case basis and are not automatic. So if you want to be granted a waiver for a past misdemeanor offense, be prepared. 

For example, minor violations that involve alcohol or drugs can usually be waived, but they may require you to go through any formalities before you can get a waiver for them.

Juvenile Crimes

If you have a prior conviction for a juvenile offense and you want to join the military, you also need to work with a military law attorney. Even if the juvenile offense occurred a long time ago, certain requirements must be met to receive a waiver. Your lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for a waiver and can guide you through the process of applying for one.

Griffin Law Defense

In conclusion, criminal records can affect your ability to enroll in military service. While there are many other factors, like newfound character and fitness, that are considered by the military before making a decision, it is important to know your rights. You can speak to a Norfolk personnel law attorney at Griffin Law Defense if you have questions about your eligibility.

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