Nobody has a right to serve in the United States Army. Federal law and Department of Defense directives give the military services significant leeway in determining who they want to accept for enlistment or commission.
An applicant's criminal and "moral" history plays a large role on 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, regardless of what you have heard to the contrary.
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. Providing false information, or withholding required information is a federal offense, and individuals may be tried by Federal, civilian, or Military Court.
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.
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 their 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 (the waiver process itself is the appeal -- the individual is not qualified for enlistment and submits a waiver request, appealing to Army recruiting authorities to make an exception in his/her particular case).
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. Reviewer will determine if a personal interview with the applicant is required, and if so may be accomplished telephonically. The suitability review team determines whether a waiver is required, regardless of how the criminal offense was disposed of by the courts.
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/Moral Behavior Which Can Be Waived:
Minor Traffic Offenses. Received a civil court conviction or other adverse dispositions for six or more minor traffic offenses where the fine was $250 or more per offense.
Minor Non-Traffic Offenses. Received four or more civil convictions or other adverse dispositions for minor nontraffic offenses.
Misdemeanor Offenses. Those with two, three, or four, civil convictions or other adverse dispositions for what the Army considers to be a misdemeanor offense require a waiver. Waivers are not authorized for individuals with more than four civil convictions or other adverse dispositions for misdemeanor offenses.
Combinations. Received a total of four civil convictions or other adverse dispositions for a combination of minor non traffic and misdemeanor (for example, 1 misdemeanor and 3 minor nontraffic).
Serious Offense. 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.