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Can You Join The Marines With A Felony?

The United States Marine Corps is notoriously picky about who they admit to their ranks. Can you join the marines with a felony? Possibly.

You’ll find it difficult to join the Marines with a felony. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible!

If you’re prepared to put in the necessary work during your enlistment application, you could get lucky and be given the approval to join the Marines.

During periods when the Marines face difficulty meeting their annual hiring targets, they may be more willing to consider applicants with a criminal background.

Can You Join The Marines With A Felony in 2024?

Can You Join The Marines With A Felony

All branches of the military aren’t exactly enthusiastic about admitting felons. In fact, under Section 504 of Title 10 USC, having a felony on your record is a disqualifying factor for all military branches unless you can get a waiver for your offense.

The Marines have incredibly high standards and they reject a large percentage of the potential recruits who apply to join. So your felony is a definite barrier standing in your way.

Having a felony on your record presents two problems as far as the military is concerned.

The first one is fairly obvious: you broke the law and society views you as a criminal. Even though you’ve served your sentence, you can’t escape your record.

The second problem is your moral character. Choosing to commit a crime that resulted in a felony conviction leaves a big question mark over your morals. Can you be trusted?

To put you in their ranks, the Marine Corps needs to be able to trust you, and your fellow servicemen and women need to be able to trust you.

To successfully enlist, you’ll need to convince the Marine Corps that you’re a reformed character who won’t give them any trouble. That you’re a dependable individual who will perform your duties diligently and with honor.

The United States Marine Corps Enlistment Eligibility

  • Must be a citizen or legal resident of the United States
  • Minimum age 17
  • Maximum age 28
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pass the physical fitness test (IST)
  • Achieve a score of at least 31 on the aptitude test (ASVAB) if you hold a high school diploma
  • Achieve a score of at least 50 on the ASVAB if you hold a GED

Assuming that you can meet the rest of the eligibility requirements, the requirement that will disqualify you is your inability to pass the background check.

You can’t hide your felony from the Marines. A military background check is very thorough and nothing is off-limits to them.

You’ll need to be honest about your felony and find out if it’s possible to obtain a moral waiver for your offense.

At the time of your application, you must have completed any custodial sentence and have finished your parole. You cannot have any other unresolved criminal proceedings underway. So if you’re serving a suspended sentence or on probation, you can’t apply to join the Marines.

Some Felony Offenses Are Not Eligible For A Moral Waiver

Unfortunately, the military draws a firm line in the sand regarding certain offenses. It doesn’t matter how reformed you are, and how outstanding you are in every other respect, if you’ve committed any of the following prohibited offenses, no branch of the military will admit you.

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual abuse
  • Incest
  • Any other sexual offence
  • An offence that requires an individual to register as a sex offender
  • Domestic battery

Which Felonies Can Be Waived By The Marine Corps?

Which Felonies Can Be Waived By The Marine Corps?

As long as your felony isn’t on the list of prohibited offenses, there’s a possibility of obtaining a moral waiver to allow you to meet the eligibility requirements for enlistment.

The more serious your felony offense, the more difficult it will be to obtain a moral waiver.

If you have more than one felony on your record, you cannot obtain a waiver.

The Department Of Defense Qualification Standards for Enlistment, Appointment and Induction manual lists a large number of criminal offenses and other violations. Felonies and Misdemeanors are separated into Major Misconduct Offenses and Misconduct Offenses.

Major Misconduct Offenses are more difficult to obtain a moral waiver for, here’s the list.

  • A felony with more than 3 other non-traffic offenses
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Bribery
  • Carjacking
  • Hate crimes
  • Mail crimes
  • Murder
  • Terrorist threats
  • Criminal libel
  • Kidnap
  • Grand theft auto
  • Extorsion
  • Embezzlement
  • Arson
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Breaking and entering
  • Drug trafficking or selling drugs
  • Carrying a weapon (firearm) on school grounds
  • Forgery
  • Grand larceny
  • Credit card fraud over $500
  • Indecent assault
  • Wrongful possession or use of narcotics or other habit-forming drugs
  • Negligent or vehicular homicide
  • Perjury
  • Rioting
  • Robbery
  • DUI
  • 3 or more DUIs in the last 5 years

There are many felony offenses that don’t come under the Major Misconduct classification, and those should be easier to obtain a moral waiver for.

That being said, you’re still in for a battle to get your waiver.

Other Offenses That Require A Waiver For The Marine corps

If your felony isn’t the only offense on your record, you could need to obtain a waiver for the other offenses.

The Marine Corps requires a moral waiver if any of the following apply:

  • Five to nine minor traffic violations
  • Two to five serious traffic violations
  • Two or more Class 1 minor non-traffic offenses
  • Two to nine Class 2 minor non-traffic offenses
  • Two to five serious offenses

How To Obtain A Moral Waiver To Join the Marines

The first step you need to take is to schedule an appointment with a recruiter so that you can discuss your history and find out how the Marines view your record.

You’ll also be able to ask questions to help you discover if a period of enlistment is the right path for you.

The Marine Corps recruiter you speak with will be honest about your chances of successfully obtaining a waiver, and if they say it’s not going to happen, you’ll need to accept that.

But if they view you as suitable in all other respects and feel that a waiver would be issued in your case, they’ll go over what you need to do.

It’s important to know that it’s up to the judgment of the recruiter at this stage. If they don’t want to put you forward a waiver, there’s no way around that. So make sure you present as a serious candidate when you go for your meeting.

Dress well. Remove facial piercings. Get your hair cut. Shave. Sit up straight. Be respectful and personable. Show gratitude for the time they’re taking to meet with you.

If they agree to work with you on a moral waiver, you’ll need to show that you’re a reformed character by preparing a personal statement and by providing letters of recommendation (character references) from respected members of your community.

These will take time to arrange and if you get them ready before you meet with the Marine Corps recruiter, it will help them see that you’re worthy of a waiver application.

You can approach school or college faculty members, local business owners, your employer/past employers, your church pastor or priest, elders of your religion, the organizers of any voluntary groups you’re involved with, as well as your parole officer (if applicable).

When the waiver application is ready, your recruiter will send it up to their commanding officer for review.

The officer will assess you as a whole individual, meaning they will look at your results on the ASVAB and the fitness test, the job you want to do in the Marines, and your all-around suitability.

They will look at the seriousness of your felony offense and at the who, what, where, when, and why of it. The officer will consider the information supplied in your letters of recommendation and make a decision.

Some types of felony offenses may need waiver approval from higher up the chain of command, and this will take longer to obtain.

If you receive a moral waiver, then you will be deemed to have passed the background check and you can complete your enlistment.

What Happens If the Moral Waiver Is Refused?

If you don’t get approval for a moral waiver, then that’s the end of your attempt to join the United States Marines on this occasion.

You can apply again in the future, and the more you can do in the meantime to satisfy the requirements for the moral waiver, the better.

You could also apply to another branch of the military. The Army, for example, issues more moral waivers than other military branches, and while the prestige of serving in the Army isn’t as high as that according to the Marine Corps, the Army is still an excellent career option.

And if you decide to give up on your aspiration to join the military, then you’ve still achieved something by going through the application process.

If you got a high score on the ASVAB, you can mention that at other job interviews, and the character references you gathered for your waiver application can be used when you apply for other jobs.

Final Thoughts

You may be eligible to join the Marines with a felony on your record if you can obtain a moral waiver, which allows you to pass the criminal background check.

Moral waivers are only given if you can show that you’re a reformed character and that you’ll be an asset to the service. Some felony offenses are not waivable under any circumstances.

Your recruiter will need to be willing to put you forward for a waiver and work with you to prepare your case. If the waiver is approved by a commanding officer, you can enlist. If the waiver is refused, you won’t be able to proceed any further.

Related Article: Can You Join The Military With A Felony?