Firefighters need to be trusted by the public, which is why they need to be sworn in and are expected to uphold strict, rigorous conventions.
This may make you wonder, what about people that have made mistakes in the past? Are people with criminal records prohibited from becoming firefighters?
The answer depends on the situation. Some offenses may be considered slight or unimportant, while others may prevent you from joining the fire department altogether.
Examples of factors that can influence this decision are how many offenses you have committed, when these occurred, and what laws were broken.
We’ll cover these in more detail below, including whether felonies, misdemeanors, and DUIs will prevent you from joining the fire department.
Can People With Criminal Records Become Firefighters?
Criminal records are documents that detail all the crimes that a person has committed. These normally include all the details about each occurrence.
If a person’s criminal record isn’t completely clean, whether they can or can’t join the fire department depends on each individual's unique circumstances.
Firefighters are always held to high standards, both on and off the job. They represent their department and the entire fire service.
Members of the public usually hold a lot of respect for firefighters. This faith and respect were earned years before you thought about joining the service.
If a fire department is hiring, they will be searching for people with moral and ethical standards.
Looking at a criminal record is one way of assessing whether you’ll be a good fit for the department.
If you have made a mistake in the past, you’ll have to prove to the department that you have accepted your mistakes and have worked hard on moving forward.
You need to show and convince the necessary individuals that you have learned from your past and won’t repeat these mistakes.
Remember, the fire service is very competitive. You’ll have to prove yourself over thousands of others to get the job, so any detail can help or hurt you.
And don’t be tempted to lie about your record. The fire department will conduct a comprehensive background investigation, and in some cases you may even have to take a lie-detector test.
If you don’t tell them about your record, or anything else for that matter, you’ll be dropped from the hiring process.
Always be truthful and make known anything that they ask for.
Can People With Felonies Become Firefighters?
Felonies are crimes that are more severe than misdemeanors. These are classed into four degrees ranging from 1st to 4th.
4th degree felonies involve burglary, resisting arrest, and larceny, while 1st degree felonies involve murder, arson, kidnap, and rape.
There aren’t any laws that state felons can’t ever become firefighters, but most felony convictions will prevent you from entering the fire service.
Each department will have its own rules and regulations, so make sure you check.
The most serious 1st degree felonies aren’t likely to be accepted. In addition, some places have local laws that are specific to felonies that are morally questionable.
These are crimes that offend the public’s consciousness, which covers cheating, stealing, and lying. These felonies are usually disqualifying points no matter what other circumstances may exist.
If a felony record has been expunged, this may or may not still be an issue.
If you apply for a government job, including firefighter positions, the department may be allowed to look at your expunged record, but you will need to notify them.
Can People With Misdemeanors Be Firefighters?
Misdemeanors are crimes that aren’t as serious as felonies and have a less harsh sentence.
From the most to the least serious, misdemeanors range from Class 1-4 or Class A-D.
Misdemeanors may be less serious than felonies, but they still may prevent you from entering the fire service.
This will depend on the crime, when it occurred, and how often the crime was committed.
Misdemeanors concerning violence, such as domestic abuse and battery, are more likely to be an issue compared to trespassing.
Other departments have regulations that cover these in more detail.
For example, Class A offenses may be permanent disqualifiers, while Class B offenses bar one for 5 years after conviction.
If you’re wondering about your specific misdemeanor, research the fire department in the area where you wish to work in.
Check to see what their hiring criteria are and whether they have misdemeanor regulations.
Many individuals with misdemeanors become firefighters, but they will still need to show the department that they have grown and won’t make the same mistakes again.
Can People With DUIs Become Firefighters?
When you apply to be a firefighter, your entire history will be examined, including your driving record.
A bad driving record may be a disqualifying point that prevents you from entering the fire service.
A DUI or DWI may result in a 5-year period where you won’t be hired.
Once the years pass, you will need to prove to the department that you have grown and won’t repeat the same mistakes.
If the charges are severe, like running from an accident or endangering someone’s life, the department may choose to disqualify you as you might be a risky hire.
This will all depend on the division’s principles and its hiring process.
Speeding tickets aren’t usually a serious problem unless you have many.
One isn’t likely to disqualify you, but some departments will be more strict than others, so always check.
For instance, Florida’s Jacksonville Beach Fire Department won’t hire people with over three violations on their driving record over the past three years.
Always be honest with the people hiring and aim to be an accountable, responsible driver in the time being.
Your driving record should get better over time, along with the likelihood of you obtaining a firefighter’s position.
The Bottom Line
Humans always make mistakes, though some are more serious than others.
The fire service needs to hire trustworthy, honest, and respectable individuals to maintain the public’s confidence.
Serious misdemeanors, felonies, or DUIs may prevent you from entering the fire service, but less severe ones may not be a huge issue.
No matter what you do, always disclose the nature of your criminal record to the fire department hiring, and always be honest.
Proving you have learned from your mistakes and keeping out of trouble can go a long way when it comes to becoming a firefighter.