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The Answer to: What Military Branch Accepts Felons?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what military branch accepts felons

“What military branch accepts felons” is a simple question with complex answers. It is possible to join the military with a felony, regardless of the military branch. But your chances will be influenced by various factors, such as the severity of your crime(s) and your present legal status.

There are also additional steps that you must take to improve your position during enlistment, like applying for felony waivers and providing letters of recommendation.

If you are a convicted felon wanting to join the military, this article is for you. Continue reading for more details on the topic of felons in the military.


What Military Branch Accepts Felons? Can You Join The Military As a Felon?


Like other applicants, you must undergo an in-depth moral screening. Your criminal background will be extensively reviewed by recruiters, and you may have to sit through an additional interview.

For this, you must disclose all your arrests and charges. Do not leave out anything, including those that have been expunged, dismissed, pardoned, or sealed. If you withhold or provide any false information, you will add another offense to your record.

There is a strict procedure in place to thoroughly check all applicants’ backgrounds, so lying is not an option. Do not even think of it!

Whether you have a chance of joining the military with a felony depends on the severity and nature of your convictions. Certain crimes are deemed unacceptable and make it impossible for you to enlist. However, there are exceptions for some crimes.

The Role of Felony Waivers

Here, exceptions come in the form of felony waivers. By definition, a felony waiver is a special permission for felons applying to be in the military.

Statistically speaking, the Air Force grants fewer felony waivers than the Army. They are said to be pickier in who they recruit. This also implies that your chance of joining the Army with a felony is higher.

But felony waivers are important in all military branches. You will need them to clean out your records and qualify as an applicant. However, not all offenses can be waived. The likelihood of them being accepted also relies on the demand for military personnel.

Unacceptable Offenses

Generally, if your offense:

  • Involves intoxication, drug use, or possession of illicit substances
  • Is currently pending during enrollment
  • Exceeds five misdemeanors before enlistment applications

You cannot serve in the Air Force.

Other problematic offenses are serious civil convictions committed more than three times, theft, rape, and sexual crimes.

The Role of Your Current Legal Status

As subtly mentioned in the second bullet point above, an equally crucial factor in whether you can join the military with a felony is your current legal status. If you are bound to civil restraints, such as probation, confinement, and parole, or serving a jail sentence and facing criminal proceedings, do not expect any of the five military branches to waive your offenses.

Acceptable Offenses

If you have committed less severe minor offenses, juvenile offenses, or misdemeanor crimes, your waiver will be considered, and you may still get to join the Air Force.

In detail, this includes:

  • Six or fewer minor traffic offenses with fines from $100 each
  • Three or fewer minor non-traffic offenses
  • Any offenses charged when you were under 18-years-old, including those expunged, dismissed, pardoned, and sealed
  • Two or fewer DWI/DUI (You will have to wait for 12 months from the date you have been convicted to be granted a waiver)
  • Two to four civil charges or dispositions

Offenses That Do Not Require Any Waivers

Minor convictions that do not require a waiver are driving without a license or proper seat belts, speeding, and jaywalking.

However, it is important that we do not give you false hope in this article. Receiving a waiver does not magically promise that you will get to join the Air Force with a felony. Again, your prospects depend on the demand for personnel, regardless of the military branch that you are applying for.

Furthermore, check this article to find the military branch with the highest crime rate if you need!

Other Supportive Steps


Make sure that you meet all the other basic requirements to be eligible for the review process. Your chances will, undoubtedly, not be equal to other candidates that have no convicted crimes. But there are other steps that you can take to optimize your prospects of serving in the military.

For instance, to improve your chances, you can provide the military recruiters with letters of recommendation, demonstrating your good character. Having character witnesses will greatly enhance your image in the suitability review that recruiters conduct during applications.

Although we have compiled the fundamentals in this article, the military judges case by case. If you wish to know your chances in more elaborated detail, we highly suggest that you contact a recruiter. Below, we have attached links to recruiter locators for each branch:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marines
  • Coast Guard

Even though the process is challenging, do not be discouraged. Here is a story to inspire you:


That marks the end of what military branch accepts felons article. Hopefully, you have learned a lot to assist your enlistment journey. If you want to know what military branches have the highest pay, you can check it here! Or if you still have concerns regarding your ability to serve in the military with a felony background, let us know in the comments! We will be happy to address any further inquiries. Also, if you think this will be of benefit to anyone, please share!

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