Joining the Military with a Juvenile Record

It is becoming increasingly difficult to join the military with a juvenile record
According to one Army recruiter, recruitment standards are stricter today than they were a few years ago. This is partly due to the pullout from Iraq and drawing down of forces in Afghanistan. Today, a drug-related charge can render someone unfit for the Army. Offenses ranging from multiple minor traffic citations to felonies can be problematic. Offenses involving serious aggression or a weapon can automatically disqualify someone from enlisting. Domestic violence cases will raise red flags, and almost certainly any type of sexually related offense will disqualify a person from every branch of the armed forces—even if the case was disposed of with some kind of diversion program. Recruiters focus on the type of offense and whether there was any kind of “adverse adjudication” associated with the charges. Adverse adjudication includes any conviction, finding, decision, sentence, judgment, or disposition other than unconditionally dropped, unconditionally dismissed, or acquitted. Participation in a pretrial diversion program is considered an adverse adjudication.

In recent years, society has become less tolerant of behaviors that were once dealt with informally and not through the legal system. At one time, calling the parent was a greater threat than calling the police. Today, for example, school yard fights are no longer resolved by the school, the child, and the families. These incidents are frequently reported to the police. In many instances, a fight at school results in assault charges being filed. At home, siblings may get into a fight and someone calls 911. It is likely that one of them will be taken into custody and charged with domestic violence.

A juvenile record will not necessarily disqualify a person from enlisting
The military can choose to waive certain offenses. These waivers are generally reviewed by officials higher up in the chain of command. If someone does not qualify due to past delinquent conduct, he or she may request a waiver for the specific offense that renders them unqualified. The waiver procedure is not automatic, and approval is based on each individual case. A waiver involves an application process whereby the applicant is requesting that a particular branch of the military make an exception in his or her case. The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that the waiver will benefit the military regardless of his or her past. Waiver authorities will consider the “whole person” concept when reviewing an application. In processing waiver requests, the military considers the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the offense in question. If past delinquent conduct is disclosed to the recruiter, having had the record sealed may increase the chances of receiving a waiver because it shows rehabilitation efforts on the part of the applicant. However, depending on the offense and the circumstances, it could also permanently disqualify the person from enlisting. The standards for waivers can be complex and are different for each branch of the military. The standards also change depending on world events and the need to expand or decrease the size of the armed forces. Currently, fewer waivers are being approved, in part due to the downsizing of the military.