Can a felon become a police officer [Answered]

Becoming a police officer is a dream job for many. But for a felon with a criminal record, it might seem very unlikely to choose to become a cop after being on the wrong side of the law.

Felony and law enforcement are in opposite directions, so many people feel that it is not possible to become a law enforcement officer once you have a criminal record.

We know that life can be very difficult for felons after serving their jail term. Even normal things like finding an accommodation or a steady job can be really  tough as people don’t trust them easily.

Felons are often judged for their mistakes committed in the past even though they have reformed and paid their debt to the society.

Can a felon become a police officer?

The answer is not a straightforward yes or no. The chances of a felon becoming a law enforcement officer is really low but not impossible. There have been instances where certain states like Colorado have granted waiver to felons so it also depends largely on the state laws. 

Also, felons lose their right to possess or carry a firearm while a police officer is required to carry a gun on the job. Hence, felons automatically get disqualified as they do not meet one of the basic requirements to become a cop.

Can you be a police officer with a misdemeanor?

Having a misdemeanor on your record will not disqualify you but it will certainly put you at a disadvantage over other applicants who have similar skill set but no criminal history.

It is better to disclose any criminal convictions in the application or hiring process even if it was expunged from your record.

So, misdemeanors which are often less serious crimes like driving offences, public intoxication, trespassing or other low-level offences may or may not lead to your disqualification.

Some police departments have a history of hiring people with minor convictions in the past. Some police departments have a long list of factors that can disqualify you while some don’t have any such conditions. 

Can you become a police officer with a DUI?

A DUI conviction will not automatically disqualify you from becoming a cop. You can become a police officer even if you have a DUI depending on the circumstances of your arrest and your case. However, if it is a felony DUI your chances of becoming a cop is practically zero. 

In case of misdemeanor DUI convictions, you can get hired provided you do not have any cases pending and no license suspension incidents in the past few years.

If you have any alcohol related incidents in the past it might become a critical factor that may lead to your disqualification. 

Can you become a police officer with an expunged felony or misdemeanor record?

Depending on the state laws, you can get your criminal records sealed or expunged after a certain period (usually 7 to 10 years) through legal means. While applying for most regular jobs, your records will not show up after expungement if your employer runs a background check.

However, this might not work for a police officer job. In fact, Chicago PD even requires you to disclose any expunged convictions during the hiring process. So, your chances of getting hired even with an expunged record is almost zero.

Basic requirements to become a police officer

To become a police officer you must fulfill certain basic requirements which vary from state to state and agency to agency.

The guidelines are not common for all the states but these are some of the basic requirements which all the agencies expect from an applicant

  • Applicant must be a US citizen.
  • Must be at least 18 years of age (or 21 in some states)
  • Must have at least a high school diploma or a GED.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license.
  • Must be physically fit for the job.
  • Must be of a good moral character.


It is admirable that a felon wants to pursue a career in law enforcement after serving jail time. Although, there have been instances where people with past records got hired in police departments but those are rare exceptions within the existing framework of current laws. 

It is important that you do not get disheartened in case you are disqualified or not eligible to become a cop. There are other job opportunities where felons might not have such a hard time getting in and excel.