SAR Work with a Felony


I second the Army route. I just retired from the Army after 34 years. If you can get in, you start with a clean slate. You have to take an entry exam (ASVAP or something like that - kinda like an IQ test) prior to being accepted - heck - buy one or two and study them before you go to the recruiter the first time (they may give you a short version of the test just to get an idea of what you're like). They sell study books specifically for the test. Buy one or two books and really study them before taking the test. They're more likely to bend over to get you in if you score high and are physically fit. And show up to the recruiter station the first time (and every time) clean cut (hair cut short, clean shaven, hopefully to crazy tattoos, etc.), showered, and dressed conservatively (business casual). Look like an Army recruiting poster-boy. And be very up front with them about your convictions from the get-go.

And if/when you get in, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT YOUR FELONY CONVICTIONS! You don't need to let anyone know your backstory.


While there is a lot of truth to the notion that SAR because of affiliation with LEO may turn you down, it depends on the organization and LEO. I have a federal felony conviction from '91, actually got my EMT cert. shortly after my conviction. From'93 to '96 volunteered for a SAR team that was affilitated with a local Sheriff's office. Only person(s) who knew was the coordinator of the team and the Sheriff, neither one cared. They were about saving lives. When I got married I had to give it up (just didn't have the time), looked into it again a few years back. One team in my area has a strict no felony policy (which is funny, but not for public dissemination), a couple of other teams don't care. The problem became I live too far for realistic response times. You may find it difficult to get EMT training, some states are strict on that and require a background check, depending on the program a felony may disqualify you from the class. Don't ever give up, no matter what, don't let it hold you back or stop you either. I had a hard time getting a decent job after my conviction, but got lucky and had people who knew my overall work ethic and character and kept me around. I've been in trucking for 20 yrs, 19.5 with the same Mom and Pop company, at one time we had 4 guys working for us with felonies, my boss used to laugh we were the only ones he never worried about.


SAR in California must comply with established laws. For insurance procedures all volunteers must be sworn special deputys under The counties emergency management office.

I would think depending on circumstances in a carefully written appeal to the Sheriff he could grant an exception. Its worth a try. No pain, no gain as they once said.


Expedition Leader
as a former state correctons officer and leo from georgia i really understand your pain. the georgia department of correction has a volunteer inmate fire department with houses in different rural areas of the state. these guys live under more strick conditions as other inmates. they go through the same training as fire fighters. some attending advanced classes and handling equipment most small local fire departments dont have. then they get out and cant get a job doing what they want to do.

90 percent of what i read here is good solid advice. especially about not applying til you get your recorded ammended if possible. the military and wildland fire fighters are great options as well as the volunteer work as well as the lawyer consultation. but there is also a program called cert (civilian emergency response team) they train in things like flood and collapsed structure rescue and recovery. im not sure what the requirements of that is. but it is a federally funded program.

dont lose faith. if its your calling youll find a way. be patient. make sure if there are any volunteer work you can do to build a good relationship with local sheriff's office. a sheriff has a lot of influence in most states. if you can gain favor there or some similar agency head, it could speed up the process or atleast stream line the hoops you would be required to jump through.


Not to be Debbie Downer here, but something for you to keep in mind - since you mentioned expungement after a certain period of time. That may be true for most jobs and on the application they will ask you something like, "Have you been convicted of a felony in the last 5 years?". Whereas when it comes to working with/in law enforcement, kids (schools), and other sensitive areas - they WILL see any and all arrests and convictions whether or not you think it was expunged. And on the application, the question will be: "Have you EVER been convicted of any crime?" or "Have you EVER been convicted of any felony?" If you think it's expunged and answer "No" - then they find it, you will automatically be disqualified due to lying on an application. Catch 22 in these cases.
Good luck.


I was a Army Recruiter from 2001 to 2003, Towards the last half of my time, as a Recruiter, the Army was desperate for numbers. Even then I only got one felon in. The only felon I got in was somebody who committed a felony as a minor. He let a buddy use his employee discount and got caught. He worked for a retail store in CA. The store pressed charges and he somehow got charged with Larceny which was considered a felony.

If Military service in a consideration often the National Guard can be more accommodating to people with certain issues.

As far as background checks? I used to work with them. Even if your court record is "wiped clean" there would be a record of that action I could probably find. There will also be probation records. If you paid a fine or did community service there will be a record of that. If you spent anytime in jail there will be a record of that. If you were arrested there will be a record of that. Even if all court records magically disappeared, and your back ground investigation and interview (if required) reveled nothing there are still records elsewhere. Our government is probably the largest bureaucracy that has ever existed. The government loves its paper work.

If you do get an interview don't lie.
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Keep trying, even when it looks like it can't happen

I don't generally speak about my background, but I'm a convicted felon and thought I’d share some things I’ve learned over the years since my conviction (served time in prison, the whole nine yards). It's been 15 years since I got out, and it still follows me around, though not on a daily basis any longer. You'll learn to live with it and be able to do the things that are important to you; you will just have to work harder to get there and be prepared for many, many rejections along the way. You're lucky to be in a state where an expungement is even possible (my conviction was in NC, where unless you were a minor or meet a very specific set of circumstances, you cannot ever get an expungement...and yes, I've met with countless attorneys and even the Governor to verify it).

I took the opportunity after getting out of prison to go back to school and get my graduate degree (I went to the USMA at West Point for undergrad...which certainly could have helped me to get into a good graduate program even with the felony conviction, but it turns out some schools don't ask the background questions for graduate school applicants). I spent two years teaching at the university while getting my master’s degree in exercise physiology. Ex Phys was an interest, but not something I necessarily wanted as a career (I'm a Crossfit trainer and former competitive powerlifter, so I know I'm not interested in that career field any longer). Instead, I used it as an opportunity to show future employers I had turned the corner and could be a productive member of society again. Once I finished, I was immediately hired at Duke hospital.

I share your interest in SAR, and to that end I first got my CNA license (it was an easy, no questions asked community college course and then I was certified). After that I was able to become a first responder, and then an EMT. My experience was particularly difficult as I had no driver’s license for about 5 years (took a LOT of meetings to get a Battalion Chief to sign off on my EMT application). During that time, and since then, I’ve spent many a weekend volunteering in the medical tents of races (runs, triathlons, charity walks, etc.). For one, I enjoy it. As a bonus, it increases my knowledge in the field, and it certainly looks good on my CV. I’ve had numerous opportunities to join SAR and even SWAT since then (even though they all have policies that say you can’t with my background)…I’ve simply gone a different direction in terms of careers.

I’m now married (to a successful surgeon I met during graduate school), and work in the medical field. For employment, your best bet is to find the small companies that don’t have a human resources department (where you’ll always get the door slammed on you). My best success has been with small, privately owned companies…where the owner makes the hiring decisions. I let them know where I’ve been, specifically why I’ll be an asset to their company, and then appeal to them for an opportunity to prove my worth. My job at Duke hospital was an exception…the department offered me the job before HR knew about my background, and even though HR wanted to rescind the offer, the department backed me and said they wanted me even with the felony background. A huge lesson: never ever lie on your application. If it doesn’t ask, I sure as heck don’t tell…but if it does ask, I have a scripted, short explanation for what happened and what I’ve done since then.

Long reply, but I can feel your pain and just want you to know that you too can turn the corner and find success. If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to PM me and I’ll do my best to answer them.