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Do Felons Get Drafted?

As a felon, if you wanted to join the military voluntarily during peacetime, you would face significant obstacles. But what happens during a time of conflict if the military needs more boots on the ground — do felons get drafted?

The United States Military retains the right to request a draft in times of war. The last draft took place during the Vietnam war and officially ended on June 30th, 1973. Currently, there is no active draft, and Congress would have to authorize any future draft.

With global tensions running high, many people are feeling nervous about the possibility of armed conflict. And Google Trends data showed a sharp increase in web searches about the draft as the Russia – Ukraine conflict got underway.

No matter your feelings about military service, a draft is one of those circumstances where your rights are put on hold and Uncle Sam, rightly or wrongly, takes full control.

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about the draft and how the draft applies to felons.

Do Felons Get Drafted in 2024?

Do Felons Get Drafted

Even though you’re a felon, you’re eligible for the draft as long as you fit the draft criteria.

As a male United States citizen or resident of the United States, you must register with the Selective Service if you’re between the ages of 18 and 25.

There is no Selective Service requirement for women. Even though the idea was pushed for a while, with a proposal requiring women to register even making its way into the 2022 Defense Bill, Congress ultimately decided against the measure.

Individuals born male and identifying as female are required to register with the Selective Service.

Individuals born female and identifying as male are not eligible for Selective Service registration.

The Selective Service maintains the register of all males eligible to serve in the military. Should Congress vote to reinstate a draft, you will be required to follow any instructions you receive about reporting for duty.

Failing to follow orders if you receive a draft notice is a felony offense.

Once you turn 26, you’re no longer required to maintain active registration with the Selective Service, but they will keep your details and you could be contacted if the need arose.

Is Another Draft Likely?

It’s impossible to answer that question. Who knows what the government, in their wisdom, will decide to do in the future.

However, given that the nature of warfare has changed significantly since the last draft during the Vietnam war era, it does seem unlikely. It’s hard to imagine how a lightly trained fighting force would be of much use in modern warfare.

Another factor is the reduced capacity of the nation to produce armaments at scale. America is now a shadow of the manufacturing powerhouse it used to be, having steadily exported the majority of its manufacturing capabilities to China, India, and Mexico.

Even if those countries were on team U.S.A. in a conflict, military hardware wouldn’t roll out of factories at the same pace that it did during World War 2. Because of the high-tech equipment, the military uses today, manufacturing lead times are much longer than they used to be.

With no weaponry to use, what would several million draftees actually do?

Plus, voluntary enlistment in an emergency situation would more than likely give the military more people than they could effectively use, which would further negate the need for forced enlistment.

And the public sentiment in America today is a world away from the cohesive patriotism that was widespread in the past.

Congress is well aware that a draft would be political suicide, and the level of objection and non-compliance would probably make a draft unworkable and unenforceable.

But even though a draft is highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible, so let’s look at how you would be affected by a draft with a felony on your record.

Can A Felon Join The Military?

Can A Felon Join The Military?

Even if you received a draft notice, you would still need to meet the eligibility requirements to join the military as a felon. Your enlistment wouldn’t be automatic.

In times of acute need in the past, the military has lowered its enlistment standards, but at the present time, all recruits have to meet the moral standards necessary to pass a background check.

Because you have a felony on your record, which means you cannot meet the moral standards, you would not pass the background check.

If you attempted to join the military voluntarily today, you would need to apply for a moral waiver because of your criminal record.

It’s not easy to obtain a moral waiver, and the more serious the felony, the less likely your waiver application would be approved.

All branches of the military have strict moral standards and there’s a good reason for that.

Military leaders need to know that the personnel under their command will follow orders and protocol. They need to have confidence that recruits won’t pose a danger to other personnel, or encourage others to behave in ways that would damage the cohesiveness of a unit.

And they don’t want to waste resources training people that could ultimately be a detriment to the service and require even more resources in the way of disciplinary procedures.

So they’re very careful about who they will enlist. Hence the difficulty in obtaining a moral waiver.

During wartime, none of the reasons that the military is cautious about felons go away. In fact, with so much at stake in live operations, thorough vetting should remain a top priority.

A Felony Plus The Draft – What Could Go Wrong?

Given the military has operational needs that generally make many felons unsuitable for service, it doesn’t seem like a bright idea to force ‘unsuitable’ people into a situation where the success of a mission and the lives of service personnel could rest on their decisions and actions.

Of course, there are less serious felonies and very serious felonies, and a less serious felony would probably receive a moral waiver without too much trouble in the event of a draft.

But don’t forget, in the event of a draft, the military will have millions of eligible non-felons to choose from. So unwilling felons wouldn’t necessarily be an attractive option for the military in the early stages of a major conflict.

A willing felon is another matter entirely, and during the Afghanistan and Iraq war era, the military issued moral waivers for some serious felonies to allow volunteers to ship out and fight on foreign soil.

An individual who would voluntarily place themselves in harm’s way in a combat zone would most likely be viewed as an asset rather than a liability.

Do Dual Citizens Get Drafted?

Being a dual citizen of the United States and another nation can be a serious burden. You have to file and pay taxes with the IRS no matter where you live in the world, even if you only spent a few months in the U.S. after your birth.

And your obligations as a citizen extend to registering for Selective Service and answering the call should a draft take place.

If you decided to leave the United States after experiencing the U.S. justice system, in the event of a draft, you could be required to return, put on a uniform, and do your duty.

So, yes, in theory, a Dual Citizen could be drafted. If you want to cut all ties with the United States, you can renounce your U.S. citizenship, although that is a costly and time-consuming process, which has to be handled via the United States embassy in your country of residence.

A Felony Isn’t The Only Reason You Could Fail to Meet Eligibility Standards

As well to the moral standard, potential military recruits have to meet physical fitness standards and the minimum education standard.

In terms of physical fitness, a number of health conditions could make you ineligible to serve, and these include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Eyesight issues
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Allergies
  • Poor dental health
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Heart conditions
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis
  • Hearing problems

If you were medically disqualified from a combat role, you could still be drafted into a support role because the law does allow for alternative national service.

Recruits should also have a high school diploma or GED and attain a score of at least 31 on the Armed Services Vocational Battery test (ASVAB).

How Does the Draft Process Work?

The draft process works on the basis of a national draft lottery, which uses birth dates to establish who will be called and when.

The Selective Service gives the following information about the draft lottery.

The first men drafted will be those reaching age 20 during that year. Then those aged 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25 will be drafted in order.

Men, 18 – 19 years old, would not be drafted until the draft of the other age groups was complete.

The lottery would be held in public with full media coverage, and overseers from public interest groups would ensure the integrity of the lottery.

The first men selected via the lottery would be those turning 20 that year.

The lottery uses two lottery machines. The first machine holds balls with a date printed on them. The second machine holds balls displaying a number between 1 and 365.

Balls are drawn in pairs, one ball from each machine until all the balls are drawn.

For example, the first pair of balls drawn could display October 2nd on the ball from machine 1, and 44 on the ball from machine 2.

This would mean that the men in the Selective Service database turning 20 on October 2nd of that year would be the 44th birthdate to be called.

The first birthdate to be drafted would be the birthdate that was drawn in conjunction with the ball displaying the number 1 from the 2nd machine.

Once the lottery was complete, the list of dates would be sent to the Selective Service Data Management Center, which would immediately begin sending out draft notices.

Upon receiving a draft notice, you’ll have 10 days to report for a pre-induction medical exam. If you pass the exam and meet the moral standard, you’ll be inducted.

At that point, you are under military laws, not civilian ones.

If you have no intention of serving, you should state your refusal before you are formally inducted. You would then be subject to penalties under civilian law.

Ultimately, you must act according to your conscience. No one can make a decision of this magnitude for you.


Do felons get drafted? Yes, in theory. If you’re a male within the age range for Selective Service registration, you will be in the eligible pool of potential draftees. Individuals outside that age range are not eligible for the draft.

Being eligible for the draft doesn’t mean that you would be enlisted in the armed forces, only that you would have to report to a recruitment center and go through the suitability screening.

As a felon, you would fail the background check that is currently required for enlistment. Of course, the military could temporarily drop the moral standards for recruits, in which case your felony wouldn’t be a barrier to joining up.

The likelihood of a draft is extremely small in any case, and experts believe that the country would need to be under threat of invasion for a draft to take place.