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FAQ: Can I Still Join The Military With A Domestic Violence Charge?

Q: I was arrested for Battery Domestic Violence in Las Vegas. Will my arrest prevent me from being able to join the military?

A: This is a very common question. A substantial number of domestic violence charges are frivolous and unprovable cases. Most domestic violence defendants are men, and most enlisted soldiers are men, therefore many young men charged with domestic violence have hopes of joining the military. There are several factors that will determine how your criminal record affects your ability to join, and the decisions are up to “fitness to serve” committees.

Each branch has its own standards for criminal history and how it impacts fitness to serve. Therefore, you should talk to your recruiter about how exactly you should handle a criminal charge and how it changes your eligibility. Conversely, I have brought military recruiters into court to show prosecutors how a conviction would affect the life of a potential soldier. Many courts and prosecuting agencies find this to be relevant. In the past, people charged with crimes were sometimes given the “jail or military” choice. This is no longer the case.

For enlistment purposes, outcomes of cases fall into one of four categories:

  1. Conviction – This is when a person pleads guilty AND the Judge finds them guilty OR they are convicted by a Judge or Jury at trial. A conviction can be considered when assessing fitness to serve.
  2. Adverse adjudication – This is when a person pleads guilty to a lesser offense or enters a plea bargain in exchange for a setence recommendation. An adverse adjudication can be considered when assessing fitness to serve.
  3. Pretrial intervention/Deferment – This is generally available in all States. In Nevada, many offenses are eligible for a stayed adjudication where the defendant completes some court programs and the case is dismissed at the end. THE MILITARY DOES NOT CONSIDER THIS AN UNCONDITIONAL DISMISSAL. A defered adjudication is considered the same as an adverse adjudication.
  4. Unconditional dismissal – This is when you win at trial or the prosecutor denies prosecution or dismissed pursuant to statute. Charges subject to unconditional dismissal will not be considered when it comes to fitness to serve.

Domestic violence charges render a person ineligible to serve for several reasons. First, you are ineligible to possess a firearm if you are convicted of a crime of domestic violence under Federal law. Second, this is seen as a crime of moral turpitude for purposes of the military, and is therefore not acceptable.

Morals Waivers

It is worth mentioning that the military can issue a morals waiver to allow a person to join if they have a conviction for certain crimes. Excessive traffic violations and certain misdemeanors including DUI are eligible for morals waivers, depending on the circumstances of the offenses. Domestic violence crimes can be eligible for morals waivers, but they are approved far less often than DUI and traffic offenses.

Domestic violence misdemeanors can resolve in several ways that renders a person ineligible to serve. If you plead guilty to the domestic violence charge, you will be generally ineligible for service. If you plead guilty to a lesser charge like simple battery or disturbing the peace, you will be generally ineligible for service. If the adjudication is stayed, you take a class and pay a fine in exchange for the case to be dismissed, you will be generally ineligible for service.

In almost all cases, the only acceptable result for someone being charged with domestic violence that is planning on joining the military is an unconditional dismissal. In other words, to preserve your future, you need to win. For that purpose, you need experience on your side. At Boley and AlDabbagh, the majority of our Battery Domestic Violence cases result in an unconditional dismissal. Almost all of the rest result in a dismissal through a stayed adjudication or a lesser charge conviction. If you are being charged with Battery Domestic Violence in Las Vegas or Henderson, don’t let it ruin your future. Call Boley and AlDabbagh today at 702-435-3333.