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What Happens if You Refuse a Military Draft? (Answered)

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what happens if you refuse a military draft

Going to war is a scary prospect. So, knowing that you might be called to do so sometime in the future is daunting. As a male in the U.S., you might want to know if you would be drafted and what happens if you refuse a military draft.

The short answer is that you will have to face the consequences, such as losing government benefits, loan support, aid, etc. If you are an immigrant, you will not be able to apply for U.S. citizenship. In more severe cases, you might face a fine or imprisonment.

What Happens if You Refuse a Military Draft?


At the draft age of 18, all U.S. men and immigrants in the country must register with the system. Currently, we have the Selective Service System doing this. If something happens and a draft is required, then you may be called for service. Not every registeree will be called. It will depend on the lottery number and year of birth.

What Happens if You Don’t Register for Selective Service?


It is a felony to fail to register for the Selective Service. So, there are definitely consequences. Below are some possible outcomes if you fail to register:

  • You’re unable to receive certain government benefits.
  • You cannot apply for federal loans or aid, particularly if you are seeking student support.
  • Immigrants living in the country will be unable to apply for U.S. citizenship.
  • You might have to pay a fine. The fine is not cheap either – it can be as much as $250,000.
  • You might be imprisoned. For such a felony, you’re looking at a total of 5 years of imprisonment.

Is it Possible to Decline a Military Draft or Refuse Conscription?


Unfortunately, no. You cannot decline a draft pick military.

If you get drafted and don’t go, you will face a number of consequences. Rest assured, you’ll get a second chance at first by submitting the draft. However, should you insist on being uncooperative, here are some possible outcomes:

  • For starters, you will no longer be qualified for federal job training or federal jobs. If you are a student, no state-based student aid for you!
  • You may go to trial and end up with a criminal record.
  • At least 8 states will not allow you to enroll in a college or university.
  • You might be charged with a fine, which goes up to a burgeoning $250,000.
  • You might be prosecuted and sent to jail for up to five years.
  • You might lose your chance to become a U.S. citizen if you are an immigrant.

You might wonder why the U.S. government would go to such lengths to penalize those who fail to register for the Selective Service or refuse the military draft. But without these consequences, most people would not care enough to serve when the time comes.

You will be surprised by how many people would refuse to go to war, even for their own safety and freedom. If you browse Reddit threads, you’ll see a shockingly large number of people who are willing to do anything to evade a draft.

Tips to Keep in Mind if You Want to Say No to Being Drafted

While you cannot deny being drafted, you can take measures to avoid being drafted legally.

One option is filing an application as a conscientious objector. This means that it is against their religious belief to participate in wars. If you can prove that you are a conscientious objector, you can reject getting drafted and refuse to go to war.

There will be investigators that consider factors like your attendance and conduct at religious organizations to see whether you are truly a conscientious objector. In this case, expect to sit interviews and hearings as well.

Another option is filing a refugee claim. However, this is not easy at all. There are many complex processes, and your case will be influenced by your status (civil and legal) at home. You should have a lawyer to accompany you. Similar to the previous option, you will need to submit a formal application.

You might be eligible for a draft exemption if:

  • Your family has a parent or sibling who is missing or has died in military action, and your absence will put a strain on your family’s financial status.
  • Or, you are a minister or about to become a minister

Note: You can only file for an exemption when you get called into duty. There is no pass for registering with the Selective Service System.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Who must be drafted?

All U.S. men or male immigrants in the country from 18 to 25 years old must register for the Selective Service. The only exceptions are U.S. male students and visitors, as well as those on diplomatic visas and who are incarcerated. Transgenders might also be exempted.

When do you need to register for the Selective Service?

  • If you are a male U.S. citizen, you have to register within 30 days of your 18th birthday.
  • If you are an immigrant, you need to register within 30 days of coming to the country.

How to register for the Selective Service?

You can go to to register online. All you have to do is filling out all the required information. Alternatively, you can fill out a form and submit it at the post office.

Can you refuse to be drafted to war?

No, you cannot refuse to get drafted. By registering for the Selective Service, you have agreed to be called into duty when necessary. If you are called in, you may only be deferred or exempted if your mental, physical, and moral health are not fit for service.

When was the last time a draft was reinstated?

The last time a draft was reinstated was back in 1980. President Jimmy Carter reinstated the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.


As we have stated above, it is against the law to deny getting drafted. What happens if you refuse a military draft? You might lose various forms of support from the government and/or be prosecuted, facing a hefty fine or lengthy jail time.

Don’t sweat it if you get called by the Selective Service. You’ll have to pass the physical exam first to get drafted. Even then, many people have managed to evade prosecution. For example, in the Vietnam War, only 4000 people out of the 210,000 men who refused a military draft were sent to prison.

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