Criminal charges can come with severe penalties, but current service members and those who are interested in a military career face additional consequences related to a criminal conviction.
How Criminal Charges Affect Current Service Members
If you are currently serving in the military and charged with a criminal offense, your career is effectively “on hold” until the legal process is complete. This means you may miss out on valuable opportunities for promotion or advancement—even if you are later acquitted.
If you are convicted of the charges against you, it is possible that you will face an administrative separation action. This could result in a discharge characterization of “other than honorable.” Please note that the military considers deferral or first-offender status equivalent to a conviction when determining if a service member faces an administrative separation action.
Joining the Military With a Criminal Record
If you are planning to join the military, you should be aware that there is a criminal background check required to enlist and to obtain a security clearance. If you don’t disclose your criminal history and an offense is later discovered, you can be charged with fraudulent enlistment under federal law.
There is no such thing as having your criminal records sealed or expunged when it comes to joining the military. All charges and convictions will be evaluated, but whether or not an offense is disqualifying is difficult to determine. Each branch handles the waiver process differently, and recruiters may be more lenient during times when the need for additional service members is high.
As a general rule of thumb, a conviction, adverse adjudication, pretrial intervention, or deferment could be problematic. If you were acquitted or the charge was dismissed without conditions, there is less of a need to be concerned.
When the Stakes Are This High, You Can’t Afford to Take Chances With Your Defense
Don’t let criminal charges put everything you’ve worked for at risk. If you’ve been accused of a crime, you need to meet with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Flaherty & Merrifield Criminal Defense is here to help. Contact us today to talk about your case and discuss the next steps.