An applicant's history plays a large role in whether or not they are eligible to join the United States Army. It's important to note here that federal law requires applicants to divulge all criminal history on recruiting applications, including expunged, sealed, or juvenile records. Additionally, in most states, such records are accessible to military investigators.
Review of Applicant History
The process begins with an interview by the Army recruiter, asking the applicant about any records of arrest, charges, juvenile court adjudications, traffic violations, probation periods, dismissed or pending charges or convictions, including those which have been expunged or sealed.
If the applicant admits to an offense or the recruiter has reason to believe the applicant is concealing an offense or a record is indicated during the Entrance National Agency Check (ENAC), then the recruiter will request a complete criminal record from local law enforcement agencies.
Some offenses can be waived, and others cannot. Recruiters themselves do not have waiver approval/disapproval authority. Some waivers can be approved/disapproved by the Recruiting Battalion Commander, other waivers must be approved/disapproved by the Commanding General of the Army Recruiting Command.
Waivers for Previous Offenses
It's important to note that applicants who require a waiver are not qualified for enlistment, unless/until a waiver is approved. The burden is on the applicant to prove to waiver authorities that they have overcome the disqualifications for enlistment and that their acceptance would be in the best interests of the Army.
Waiver authorities will consider the "whole person" concept when considering waiver applications. If a waiver is disapproved, there is no appeal, since the waiver process itself is the appeal.
Suitability Review Process
Applicants with a criminal history (regardless of disposition) or questionable moral character, but because of dismissed charges, plea bargains, or release without prosecution, must have a suitability review for determination of enlistment.
A suitability review will be conducted on the following charges (regardless of disposition) prior to any moral waiver processing on all applicants:
- Five or more minor nontraffic charges
- Two or more misdemeanor charges
- Combination of four or more minor nontraffic or misdemeanor charges
- One serious criminal misconduct charge
Offenses which may be waived Include minor traffic violations and misdemeanors. Any conviction or adverse disposition for what the Army considers a felony requires a waiver. Again, the Army has its own list of what it considers to be a serious offense.
A conviction is a finding or a plea of guilty. The following are also considered convictions by the Army:
Applicants who have entered a plea of "Nolo Contendere" that was accepted by the court despite later processing in the same case to permit dismissal, expungement, amnesty, pardon, or clemency based on any of the following are considered to have a conviction:
- (1) Absence of later violations.
(2) Evidence of rehabilitation.
(3) Satisfactory completion of a period probation or parole.
(4) Any other legal appeal that does not change the original finding on its own merit.
An attempted offense will be classified in the same category as a successful attempt.
A person arrested, cited, charged, or held for an offense or offenses and allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense must list the original charges and also, the lesser offense to which a plea of guilty was entered. Even if a waiver is not required, the arrest must be reported.
Other Adverse Disposition
This term includes all law violations which are not civil court convictions, but which resulted in an arrest or citation for criminal misconduct, followed by the formal imposition of penalties.
- Admission into diversionary or similar programs.
- Admission into an adult first-offender program.
- Deferred acceptance of guilty plea program sorprobated sentence.
- Tried as a youthful offender.
- Enrollment in supervision programs.
- Orders to pay restitution, pay a fine, serve community service, pay court cost, attend classes, or serve probationary periods which do not constitute civil court convictions.
- Unconditional suspended sentence and unsupervised unconditional probation. These terms are defined as a court-imposed suspended sentence or probationary status.
Some states have procedures for a later expunging of the record, dismissal of charges, or pardon (on evidence of rehabilitation of the offender). Such action removes the initial conviction or other adverse disposition so that, under state law, the applicant has no record of conviction or adverse juvenile adjudication. Despite the legal effect of this action, a waiver of such an applicant may be required and the underlying facts must be revealed.
Offenses/Moral Behavior Which Cannot be Waived:
If an applicant was intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of application, or at any stage of processing for enlistment, no waiver will be granted.
Likewise, if an applicant has criminal or juvenile court charges filed or pending against them by civil authorities, they will not receive a waiver.
Other conditions that will not result in waivers:
- Persons under civil restraint, such as confinement, parole, or probation
- Subject of initial civil court conviction or adverse disposition for more than one serious offense
- Civil conviction of a serious offense with three or more other offenses (other than traffic)
- Initial civil court conviction or other adverse dispositions for sale, distribution, or trafficking of marijuana, or any other controlled substance
- Three or more convictions or other adverse dispositions for driving while intoxicated, drugged, or impaired in the 5 years preceding the application for enlistment.
- Confirmed positive result for alcohol or drugs
- Persons with convictions or other adverse dispositions for 5 or more misdemeanors preceding application for enlistment.
- Waivers cannot be issued for charges pending, or for individuals who are currently undergoing restraint or probation.