Can You Join the Navy With a Criminal Record? Wanting to sign up and serve for your country is noble, but can you do it when you have felonies and misdemeanors against your name? The simple answer is “maybe” – it is possible to be turned down for having a felony on your record. It is possible to be turned down for having a misdemeanor on your record. It is even possible to be turned down for having an arrest recorded on your record.
Depending on the role, the time you enlist, and the kind of crimes that you were arrested for or convicted of, the answer could be a very firm no. However, that’s not always the case; there are ways to get access to a career protecting your fellow citizens even if your past might have led you to commit crimes.
Can You Join the Navy With a Criminal Record?
What is necessary to join the Navy?
When enlisting in the Navy, they want to see that the applicant is of good moral character and can show this through their past deeds. If you can show that you have lived a good life as a functional member of society, there is no reason that you would be turned down for the Navy on moral grounds.
If you have had a few hiccups along the path of your life, then you might face difficulties, however, there are ways around misdemeanors in most cases and felonies in a few.
The most important thing is that you meet the strict moral standards that the Navy sets, which includes honesty and integrity – if you have committed a crime in the past, be honest in your application, and declare it (or even them). If you lie about having an arrest or criminal conviction, at very best you will be disqualified from the process.
Especially if you are a felon and fail to mention it, you will be committing fraud and could face up to 3 years in prison for failing to be honest and permanently disqualified from the role. Do you want to lie and see if you get away with it?
The Navy (and all branches of the military) run background checks which are more thorough than most other checks that you may have to undertake. If you have lied, they will find out. When they find out, you could go to prison. Do not lie to the military. It is not a good idea.
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But will I get accepted if my crime’s time limit has passed or it was expunged?
If you are lucky enough to have served your debt to society and no longer have to declare that you had a criminal past on civilian job applications, sadly, you will still have to do so when enlisting with the Navy.
Even for entry-level jobs, the military never considers a record sealed or expunged. If something has happened, declare it honestly. You do not want to risk committing fraud.
So, should I just give up trying to apply then?
No, not at all. If you have a misdemeanor, there is a chance that you will be turned down from entering into the Navy. There is a slightly higher chance of disqualification if you have a felony arrest or conviction.
However, there is a process in all military branches in granting waivers to applicants who might not usually qualify but are allowed to, maybe due to a need for recruits or possibly because someone is deemed worthy of a second chance.
The Navy considers granting waivers for crimes based on four different types of offenses, helpfully named A, B, C, and D.
Type A crimes – these are minor traffic violations, such as speeding or running a red light. These are unlikely to cause too much of an issue for an applicant and will usually be overlooked. If you have committed six or more violations, you will need a waiver though.
Type B crimes – these are minor non-traffic violations or minor misdemeanors, such as drunk in public, disturbing the peace, or non-criminal trespassing. Again, these should not be too much of an issue if you are trying to enlist, but you will require a waiver after three or more violations.
Type C crimes – these are non-minor misdemeanors, such as criminal trespassing, a non-felony DUI, or possession of marijuana. As these crimes are considered more serious than the ones previously mentioned, you (or your recruiter) will be required to apply for a waiver for any offense committed.
If there is a clear history of repeated serious misdemeanor offenses (for example, multiple convictions for marijuana possession), you are unlikely to be granted a waiver and accepted into the Navy.
Type D crimes – finally, felonies, such as felony DUIs and serious assault. These are the most serious crimes a person can commit in America. For those who have been branded felons, it can be difficult to find employment. Sadly, it is also true in the Navy.
You will be required to apply for a waiver for any felony arrest or charge that you have against your name. Although it is possible, it is rare for felons to be granted waivers without a very good reason.
If you find yourself in this category, acquire character references from respected members of your community, and show that you have made positive steps since you were arrested or convicted to improve yourself.
This could include finding employment, reentry programs (if you served time in prison), and education.
Does anything automatically disqualify an applicant?
Yes, certain crimes (both misdemeanors and felonies) may lead to an automatic and possibly permanent disqualification from ever serving in the Navy and, potentially, any branch of the military. These crimes are usually extremely violent, involve the taking of another life illegally, or sexual in nature.
For example, an applicant who has an assault charge (especially in cases where a deadly weapon was used) will most likely be turned down for a position in the Navy. According to the moral standards that the Navy promotes, the reckless endangerment of another’s life is unacceptable.
Similarly, if there is a sexual offense against a person’s name, that individual can no longer be described as of good moral character. Even if the applicant was otherwise a perfect candidate, a waiver would imply that a potential recruit who has the potential to sexually violate another human being is acceptable.
Legally, it is unlikely that this could ever happen. Former Navy men and women who were found guilty of such offenses will possibly have the reenlist code RE-4 – ineligible to reenlist, waivers not authorized, and will not be considered. If you have a crime of this nature on your criminal record, you will not be able to serve in the Navy or likely any branch of the military.
How will the waiver process happen?
Even before the waiver, a full investigation will be carried out on any applicant when they apply to enlist. This will involve checks on their criminal background, their fingerprint, their credit score history, and any other check that may be necessary.
As the Navy wants those of high moral standards, they want to examine any crimes that were committed (including any possible crimes that could be associated with fingerprint records) and any financial irregularities or difficulties in the past. If you cannot explain any income that would appear on your records, you may have a difficult time enlisting and may even face legal action if there is a legal concern.
Additionally, if you have any defaulted loans or evidence of bankruptcy, the Navy could see that as a negative – you have not honored your debts to society, should they trust you if you find yourself in a war?
Even if you find these financial restrictions strange, these are things which can all hold you back from serving – consider how your criminal and financial history can affect your chances.
Regardless, if you have any offenses that will require a waiver, the recruiting officer will submit a waiver referral form on your behalf. There is no guarantee that a waiver proposal will be accepted. There will be additional checks into your background and the crimes that were committed.
Helpful resources, if this were to happen, would be character statements from respected members of society (including military personnel, if possible), evidence of character reform since the end of any prison time that you served, and evidence of personal growth like education or employment since regaining your freedom.
These documents will help convince a panel that will assess your case, but if the crimes do not show signs of remorse (i.e. a number of crimes committed over a number of years) or they are judged to be too serious, your application may still be turned down.
Remember that your honesty throughout this process is extremely important – gain truthful accounts and do your best to show how you have changed your life for the better. This will help in giving the best account you can possibly give to convince your assessors that you deserve a chance to serve your country and protect your fellow Americans.
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Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.