Can You Join The Navy With a Felony on your Record?

You have been convicted of a felony, but you’re now thinking about joining the US Navy. You’ve probably heard that they sometimes accept felons, and you have been probably wondering whether or not you’d be able to be accepted as well. So, can you join the Navy with a felony?

can you join the Navy with a felony

To answer your question from the get-go, we’ll say that the Navy, as well as basically all other military branches accept felons in certain cases. However, it is rather difficult to get enlisted in the Navy as a felon, and there aren’t any hard rules that would help you understand whether you are eligible or not. Plenty of factors play a role for the Navy, and your best bet would be to speak to a recruiter directly.

Now, we’ll try to give you a better idea of how the Navy treats convictions.

What is a felony waiver?

Normally, neither the Navy nor any other US military branch accept felons. However, it is still possible on a case-by-case basis. What would make possible for you to be enlisted in the Navy is a felony waiver.

A felony waiver is special permission granted to applicants with a felony. It allows a previously convicted applicant to be enlisted in the US Armed Forces in spite of their felony conviction.Recruiting standards may vary slightly from military branch to branch. However, the recruiting standards are strict across all military branches, and it isn’t easy to get enlisted in them.

Navy offense classification

Before we proceed to the Navy offense classification, there are certain important definitions to know about.


During adjudication,a judge reviews evidence and argumentation in order to come to a decision which would determine the rights and obligations of the parties involved in the process.

When the judge or other adjudicating authority places a condition that would lead to the dismissal, acquittal, or dropping of the charges, the adjudication is considered adverse.For the purposes of enlistment, even if your charges have been dropped with any condition,adverse adjudication will be considered a guilty finding and will require a waiver. This includes any charges that have been pardoned, dismissed, or disposed of in any manner.


In some states, there are procedures for pardon, dismissal of charges, or expungement of records upon evidence of the offender’s rehabilitation. From a legal point of view, such an action has the effect of extinguishing the initial conviction from the applicant’s criminal records. But even if a conviction has been removed from the record, it must be revealed to the recruiting authorities.


Probation is the suspension of the sentence of a convicted individual. Probation requires the individual to abstain from further unlawful activity and may or may not include restricting conditions imposed by authorities.

Probation can be unsupervised/unconditional – where the individual has no restrictions on freedom of movement, reporting requirements, etc. – and supervised/conditional. Needless to say, the limits imposed during supervised probation restrict an individual from being enlisted in the army. Persons under unconditional probation are eligible for enlistment.

Non-traffic offense

If the maximum confinement is four months or less under local law, an offense is generally considered a non-traffic offense.

Misconduct offense

If the maximum confinement exceeds four months but is less than one year, an offense is generally considered a misconduct offense.

Major misconduct offense

If the maximum confinement is one year or more under local law, an offense is generally considered a major misconduct offense. A major misconduct offense roughly corresponds to felonies in the sense of maximum imprisonment term.Under state laws, felonies are offenses that are punished with more than 1-year imprisonment.

A felony charge which is later amended to a lesser offense will be considered a felony for enlistment purposes.

Moral waiver chart

 Number of offensesWaiver Authority
Traffic Violations5 or moreNRD Commanding Officer
Non-Traffic OffensesUp to 4No waiver required
5-7NRDCommander Officer
8 or moreNo waiver authorized
Misconduct1Waiver necessity determined by the NRD Commanding Officer
2-4NRD Commanding Officer
5 or moreNo waiver authorized
Major misconduct1-2*NRC Commander
2 juvenile offenses or 1 adult and 1 juvenile offense
2 adult or 3 or more juvenile offensesNo waiver authorized
* No more than 1 adversely adjudicated major misconduct offense

Combination rules for offenses for non-traffic and misconduct offenses

Combination of offensesWaiver authority
1 M and 4-6 NT offensesNRD Commanding Officer


2 M and up to 4 NT offenses
3 M and up to 3 NT offenses
3 M and 4 or more NT offensesNo waiver authorized
8 or more NT+M offenses
1 major misconduct and three or more M or NT

These charts have been developed in order to filter those applicants whose habits may be a threat to the Navy’s effectiveness. At the same time, it allows those who’ve had just a few indiscretions to serve in the Navy.

Can you join the navy with a felony? It will depend on a number of factors:

  • The nature of your offense.
  • The circumstances of the offense.
  • The recency of the offense, as well as its frequency.
  • The applicant’s age and maturity when committing the offense.
  • The likelihood of new offenses.

It should be noted that any kind of felony is a serious disqualification for enlistment in the Navy. And while your conviction may be waived, it doesn’t mean that it will be waived.

Self-admitted crimes and offenses are going to be processed in the same way as adverse adjudications. They are classified and approached in the same way as other offenses would be. However, the fact of a self-admission may play a role in determining your eligibility for enlistment.

Certain felonies are disqualified automatically and permanently. Among those felonies are any offenses related to sexual abuse, as well as indecent acts with minors. In addition, violent felonies again will most likely be disqualifying.

It generally is very difficult to obtain a felony waiver from the US Armed Forces. And aside from the nature of your offense, other seemingly minor factors may also play a huge role in a successful enlistment. Your personal traits may serve as an indicator of whether or not you are suitable for service in the Navy. For example, if you were dishonest or impolite, you would be very likely to be disqualified from enlistment.

Speaking of honesty. Honesty is crucial because it will allow you not only to show that you have goodwill but also to avoid any legal complications.Providing false or incomplete information is considered a federal offense, so make sure to provide your criminal record in its entirety.

And by this, we mean that you should disclose all your offenses, even those that have been expunged, cleared, sealed, or set aside. A cleared conviction will demonstrate that the court has considered you rehabilitated, but if you don’t disclose its records, you may run into problems.

The current demands of the Navy are also going to play a major role. If the Navy has a shortage of applicants, it may consider issuing an increased number of waivers.This doesn’t mean that they will be enlisting sex offenders though, for example. It will just mean that a qualifying offense has a higher likelihood of being waived, given that the applicant has the required traits.

Be mindful that you most likely won’t be able to find information online that would be applicable to your case. As we’ve mentioned, there are plenty of factors in play, and only a recruiting officer would be able to provide you with an answer specific to your case.

When consulting or applying, remember to be honest about your criminal records. We’ve repeated this several times, but it indeed is of crucial importance for your application. Don’t think that you will be able to lie or blame someone else for your charges. Your criminal records along with your background will be checked, and believe us, the decision of the judge is going to have a higher priority for the recruiters than your claims.

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