Criminal Convictions and Military Eligibility

Criminal Convictions and Military Eligibility

Barriers to Service

Serving in the armed forces requires strong moral character both as a prerequisite for enlistment and while in service. Consequently, the recruiting process for the armed forces involves assessing the applicant for enlistment standards that demonstrate moral fitness. Each specific defense unit maintains moral standards that must be met to accept a recruit.

Screening for Standards

The recruitment process for all defense units can include a thorough criminal background check, and certain convictions can affect a potential enlistee’s eligibility. Some convictions can disqualify an applicant from entering the armed forces altogether, while others may require a moral waiver. Many potential enlistees can get a waiver for misdemeanor crimes if the offense was not serious. Felonies are understandably more difficult to get waivers for.

What Are the Considering Factors?

Because each defense unit has its own moral standards for enlistment, most potential enlistees are considered for a waiver on an individual basis. But, in general, the more serious the crime, the less likely a waiver will be granted. Likewise, crimes that demonstrate a particularly bad moral character, even if not considered serious or dangerous, can also decrease your chances of being granted a waiver.

The waiver process is somewhat holistic. Several factors will be considered, such as:

  • The nature and seriousness of the crime
  • The facts and circumstances of the crime
  • The number of offenses
  • How long it has been since the potential enlistee’s last offense, and
  • The steps the applicant has taken since the conviction

Just as important, the nature of the job or role the applicant will be filling must also be considered. High-security clearance roles will be harder to get a waiver for than those with low security clearance. Also, it is important to bear in mind that felonies and domestic violence crimes bar a person from owning or possessing a gun. Military service members do not get an exemption from this rule. This is a significant barrier to enlistment for many applicants because it severely limits the capacity in which you can serve. Speak with a recruiting agent for the defense unit you are interested in if you have questions about what specifically you need to demonstrate to be accepted.

How Can You Help Your Chances?

Even if you have a criminal conviction, cleaning your record through the process of expungement can help you get a waiver. Through expungement, you can have a specific conviction dismissed. Not all convictions can be dismissed, but dismissing a conviction can go a long way toward demonstrating an upright moral character. You should become informed what a dismissal will do before you start the process. Your original conviction will still be discovered in your background check, and you will still be required to disclose all criminal convictions on your application, including those on your juvenile record or those that have since been dismissed. Nevertheless, cleaning your record can serve in your favor. The judge will be selective in what relief is granted so getting a conviction dismissed can depict you as someone that has met the moral standards of the court.

If you have questions about what you can do to clean your criminal record, speak with a criminal defense attorney with record cleaning experience about your options. An attorney can also help you find options if you are ineligible for a dismissal. For example, you may have to first get a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor before you can petition for a dismissal. Or you may have to get a Certificate of Rehabilitation and apply for a Governor’s Pardon instead. A knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney can go over your options with you and help you take the steps needed to clean your record to increase your chances of getting a military waiver. Serving your country is an honorable calling, and no one should be barred from enlistment for a mistake in the past alone.

If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about the consequences of a criminal conviction, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you deal with the aftermath of a conviction so you can live your life. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights.  Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

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