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Can a Felon Become a Police Officer?

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Having been on the wrong side of law enforcement due to a felony conviction, many felons returning to society may not consider a career in law enforcement.

Some, however, might have an interest in working on the right side of the law.  

It is difficult enough for felons to obtain any kind of job as experience shows.

Can a felon become a police officer? Let’s take a look at this issue.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Can a Felon Become a Police Officer?
  • Factors Against Hiring Felons
  • Can You Become a Police Officer With a Criminal Record?
  • Guidelines for Becoming a Police Officer
  • Find a Career Today!


Can a Felon Become a Police Officer?

The simple answer to this question is that a felon cannot become a police officer.

With very strict standards in place across the United States, there are certain restrictions.  

Despite your desire to join as a police officer, a felony conviction will put this out of reach. In addition to being convicted of a felony, anyone who has a dishonorable discharge from the military, or a conviction of domestic battery.

The same is not true for a felony arrest.

It is possible to become a police officer with an arrest for a felony as long as it did not result in a conviction.  

Still, a felony arrest will be an important factor that any potential police department will investigate through their background check.

An expunged record may create opportunities for someone to join the police force with a felony on their record.

It will depend on the state in which the felony was committed as to whether expunging your record will allow you to join the police force. 

Some states will make an exception for an expunged record, though states like California will not make enough any exception.

Factors Against Hiring Felons

There are many factors working against felons in their attempt to become a police officer.

First, felons are typically unable to regain firearm rights, which would be a limiting factor in working in law enforcement.

A police officer is required to carry a gun.

Then, their legal records could become part of a case and brought to court by the defense.

This would severely jeopardize any case in which a police officer is involved.

There are also major concerns regarding trust in the public. Felons are not seen as being trustworthy.

Felons are seen as returning to a life of crime with as many as 67% returning to prison within the first two years after their release.

Being hired as a police officer will take being honest and ethical with a strong sense of integrity.

Being unafraid of hard work, capable of thinking and working independently, taking charge, and making a positive impression will all be important traits.  

Felons are often not seen as having these particular qualities.

Additionally, there are traits that are often called the five I’s that are key qualities for a police officer to have: 

  • Integrity
  • Intellect
  • Industry
  • Initiative
  • Impact

Again, felons are not viewed as having these characteristics. All of these serve to keep felons from gaining employment, especially as a police officer.

Can You Become a Police Officer With a Criminal Record?

It depends. Sometimes, you can become a police officer with a misdemeanor conviction.

Many police officers previously had some type of criminal record.

Most often this was a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

It will depend on the misdemeanor and how that crime would impact your work as a police officer.

Among the misdemeanors that would likely prevent you from joining the police force are such crimes as any involving violence, perjury, or theft.

Many jurisdictions will limit accepting you as a police officer with a Class A misdemeanor.

These include such crimes as assault with bodily injury or a second DUI.  

A Class B misdemeanor like drug possession or a first DUI in the past 10 years could result also disqualification. 

The types of criminal offenses that often disqualify someone from becoming a police officer include:

  • Use of a controlled substance other than marijuana
  • Use of marijuana within the past three to five years
  • Sale of any controlled substance at any time
  • A felony conviction
  • Having a revoked or suspended driver’s license in the past three years
  • Conviction of a sexual offense 

Guidelines for Becoming a Police Officer

Let’s take a look at what is required to join the police force.

Specific guidelines for joining the police force are not universal across the United States.

Each state and jurisdiction sets its own standards for becoming a police officer.

Most of the standards to become a police officer are simple and straightforward.

Typically, to be a police officer in this country, you must:

  • Be at least 19 years old though some states require 21 as the minimum age
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have at least a high school diploma and sometimes college
  • Have prior military service, college degree, or other relevant work experience
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Not have been convicted of or pleaded no contest to a felony
  • Be physically capable of doing the job
  • Be fluent in English 
  • Be of good moral character

It is somewhat difficult to assess someone’s moral character.

Certain states have a list of behaviors that are not considered acceptable.

This often includes having a criminal history, a default on a loan or other debts, or crimes that were committed but with no sentence.

In order to determine moral character, some states use a polygraph and others require a psychological examination to determine appropriateness for joining the police department.  

Among other factors that are important in becoming a police officer are such things as using drugs or alcohol excessively.

Having good grades in school as well as in the police academy are important.  

Prior experience in the military or in a job that requires significant interaction with the general public is also important. 

Some jurisdictions require passing a written test of basic abilities like reading comprehension, conceptual reasoning, and problem solving skills.

There is also an assessment of physical fitness required with a physical examination by a doctor to ensure physical fitness and good health. 

Find a Career Today!

Even if becoming a police officer is not a possibility with a felony conviction that does not mean that there is no chance to work in the field of law enforcement.

There are other options.

Among the possibilities are working in general law enforcement, traffic enforcement, animal control, or wildlife conservation.

Give some thought to how you can become part of the law enforcement field.

There are possibilities for you.

Don’t get discouraged or give up.

While you cannot change what has happened, you can choose how to respond to your current circumstances.

So what do you think about this article about whether a felon can become a police officer?

Have you or someone you know applied for a job as a police officer?

What was that like and what happened?

Please tell us in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Police Officer?”

  1. You claimed that “you showed” that you were rehabilitated. And just how did you do that , because I know nothing was done for you while serving time to accomplish that ? I was already a journeyman floorlayer when I went in , did 18 months on a 3 year term for a violent crime , served 1 year of a 3 year parole and got cut loose. That was 35 years ago and I never went back. I took my contractor’s license exam in Sacramento, California after serving my parole and became my own boss from that time forward . My violent crime didn’t hinder me from getting that license and I ever lied on the application about it. I became a bow hunter after I got off parole and still do so to this day. It made me an all-around better hunter anyway.

  2. Hello My name is Antonio and I’m a felon. I had the same dream to become a police officer when I was younger. But as I got older my life took a different turn my grandmother that raised me had died I was then placed in foster care and I just felt like nobody cared so I started doing whatever I wanted to do not even realizing that it would impact my future I think about it every day how I wish I could change my past. And I feel that society looks at us Felons the wrong way. It’s been a lot of shooting and killings mostly caused by people that has never been in trouble a day in there life but decides to buy a Assault rifle and goes out and kill innocent people for no reason. Also police officers have killed people for no reason no-matter there color. I don’t feel you should hold anything over someone’s head just because the got a felony record some of us wasn’t really thinking about our future only living for today and something really needs to be done. I mean let’s face it, It’s more felons that work for the government then it will ever be in the prison system The Government gets away with more then we can ever think of.

  3. I got a felony assault over 10 years ago for a fist fight that I didn’t even start. I have no other charges on my record. I think it is really messed up how much it has affected my life and all the job opportunities I have lost because of it.

  4. I agree. I believe the time is now that all felons come together and take cases and these issues to the supreme court’s.
    The Constitutional liberties apply to all people of the United States free of discrimination my name is mr. Smith it is time to claim our rights back! I need statements from as many felons as possible for this movement. Please call 3155675054.

  5. I have not been in any trouble for 15 years . I have had my record expunged I carry a concealed carry permit but yet I cannot become a police officer because the police department still has access to my original background check and it was all non violent just young and dumb and now I’m paying for it the rest of my life just not fair out of the legal system not saying it was right to do things I did but how are you supposed to be rehabilitated if the system won’t give you a chance again ?????????

  6. I’ve been wanting to be a police Officer I did time when I was 19 years old and never recommitted I have a security clearance and work for Lockheed Martin and they found out my past but sense i showed that I was rehabilitated the government cleared me so why can’t the law let me join


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