Can the Military See My Records if They are Expunged?
If you have received a juvenile conviction and are hoping to join the military, there are some things to consider. Most juveniles have sealed records, meaning that they are not open to the public. Furthermore, in most cases, by the time you reach 21 years of age, any juvenile convictions can be expunged or pardoned. In these cases, most people are not allowed to view your criminal record.
However, the military and other federal agencies will have access to your criminal record. This does not necessarily mean that you will not be accepted to the military if you apply for a position; however, it is important to understand how to fill out your application to the military and how to approach the experience.
Almost all juvenile files are sealed, which means that the public cannot access them. However, federal agencies, including the military, can access sealed records. As a result, it is a good idea to alert the military to juvenile convictions on your application, seeing as they will find out about them anyway when they conduct a background check on you. If you are upfront about your past mistakes, the military might still accept you.
Advice for Applying
At the age of 18 or 21, in most cases you can have juvenile convictions pardoned. If you have your criminal record pardoned, it means that you can legally claim that you have never been convicted of a crime. This is relevant for employment applications or school applications, and any legal document that asks if you have ever been arrested.
However, the military is considered an exception to pardons. Federal agencies such as the military legally have the right to see your criminal record, even if it has technically been expunged. While you can legally apply to a job and say that you have never been convicted of a crime if your record has been pardoned, this is not the case when filling out an application for the military. For security reasons, this information must be revealed to the military on enlistment and security clearance paperwork.
If you neglect to alert the military of your past crimes, they can find out about them anyway. The military has the authority to do thorough background checks on everyone who applies to the military and they will be able to find out if you have been convicted of a crime. Lying about a juvenile conviction can get you into legal trouble and can cause the military to reject your application. Likewise, if you have a pending juvenile court case, you will not be accepted to the military.
However, if you properly report your past juvenile convictions, if you have served your sentence or probation, and if you have no criminal convictions since your juvenile convictions, chances are that you will still be accepted into the military. Your case will be reviewed and the severity of your crime(s) will be taken into account by the military, but it is possible for you to be accepted.
Many factors go into if the military accepts you despite juvenile convictions. Depending on the crime(s) you committed and how honest you are about your past convictions, the military may or may not accept your application. Generally speaking, the militarily will not automatically reject your application based solely on a juvenile conviction.