How Can I Become a Police Officer If I Have a Misdemeanor?

by Christa Kerley

How Can I Become a Police Officer If I Have a Misdemeanor?

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Becoming a police officer is dependent on several factors. One is that an applicant can pass a background check. A background check occurs when a potential employer investigates a potential employee’s educational and employment history. To become a police officer, the proposed governmental agency will also investigate credit and criminal histories, and possibly administer a polygraph test. The criminal background check will determine whether a misdemeanor may or may not become a potential problem in becoming a police officer. Standards for hire vary among local, state and federal government agencies, and among states themselves.

Research the Agency and Misdemeanor Severity

Teenage driver (16-17) being led away in handcuffs, mid section

Each governmental agency has its own regulations in regard to misdemeanors. Some law enforcement agencies will consider any misdemeanor except minor traffic violations grounds for employment exclusion. A number of agencies consider serious misdemeanors such as convictions of driving while under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence severe enough to refuse employment.

Severity of the misdemeanor can play a vital role in whether a person can become a police officer. It is impossible to become a police officer with any law enforcement agency if the misdemeanor prohibits you from owning or carrying a firearm; police officers are required to carry a weapon at all times while on duty. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a serious, or gross, misdemeanor is considered a criminal offense that “excludes certain minor offenses, such as drunkenness or minor traffic offenses.” Some examples of misdemeanors, other than serious violations, are shoplifting, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, minor drug possessions and simple assault. However, note that the definition of a misdemeanor as minor (simple) or serious (gross) is left to the discretion of the state in which the crime was committed.

Misdemeanor Expungement

Hang typing laptop's key board.

It is possible to seal or “expunge” a misdemeanor from a criminal record. Once the misdemeanor is expunged, it is not necessary to divulge it to a potential employer. An expungement, otherwise known as an expunction, is the process by which a criminal conviction is sealed by a court in your criminal record. The ability to expunge a misdemeanor depends on the severity and the state or county in which the misdemeanor or conviction took place. However, an expunged record can be accessed by a governmental agency, such as law enforcement, if it is deemed legally necessary, as in the case of a criminal investigation of a crime committed after expungement.

Divulge Misdemeanors

It is important that you disclose any misdemeanor convictions during the employment screening process that have not been expunged. If an applicant intentionally conceals or misrepresents a misdemeanor conviction, and the background investigation shows otherwise, it is grounds for automatic employment disqualification.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

About the Author

Christa Kerley has a B.A. in anthropology with emphasis in archaeology. She also has certificates in geographic information systems and cultural resource management. Kerley was author and distributor of a nonfiction newsletter for several years, and has worked since 1997 as a freelance copywriter and research writer. Some of Kerley's published works can be viewed at eHow, Bukisa,, Answerbag, and Pluck on Demand.