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Can I Become a Scout Leader with a DUI or Other Conviction?

Last updated 2021-11-13 04:22:35 UTC

A criminal background check is required for any adult volunteer or leader by the BSA. What if you have a DUI many years ago, and have a clean record since then? Can you still become a leader? Are you disqualified from volunteering?

A criminal background check is required for any volunteer within BSA - Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Committee member, even volunteer driver. Consent for the background check is given when signing the adult application.

The background check usually provides a full report of any criminal convictions in an applicants history, and may include other things such as a credit check. Does a past conviction disqualify someone from a volunteer role? The answer as always is: it depends.

BSA does not publish a list of crimes for which a disqualification is automatic. However, this likely includes any crime involving children, or any sexual crime, not matter how far in the past it occurred. For instance, if you are a registered sex offender, you may not volunteer in any capacity. If you were convicted of child abuse, you may not volunteer.

Other convictions might be allowed if they were for lesser crimes, and occurred in the distant past.

How Does a BSA Background Check Work?

As detailed in the Adult Leader Selection Process, BSA contracts with an outside company to conduct a thorough criminal background check for each application, usually using public sources.

The volunteer form also asks for names and contact information for personal references, but it appears that it is rare that those individuals are contacted. Checking references is generally the responsibility of the charter organization, but there is no consistency in how (or if) the references are contacted.

If an applicant has some criminal activity in the distance past, it is possible that those referenced may be contacted for a character assessment. These reference checks could be conducted by the background investigator, the council, or the charter organization representative.

Once the report is received, it is forwarded to the council and possible the charter organization. There are some activities which would result in immediate rejection. Other items, such as a DUI 10 years ago, may prompt a discussion between the council and the charter organization. The council would contact the charter org and explain what was found and they would mutually agree how to proceed.

Either the council or the charter organization may ultimately reject the volunteer for any reason. They each have veto power over the volunteers.

Should I Reveal a Prior Conviction In Advance?

Before submitting your application, it is important that you reveal the nature of any prior conviction to both your district executive and charter organization representative. Be completely truthful - what was the conviction?, and exactly when did it occur?

They will probably not provide any opinion until they see the results of the background check. You will probably not be approved if the actual crime is much more significant than what you revealed. For instance, you will be rejected if you said you were caught shoplifting as a young adult, but the background check reports armed robbery. You will also be rejected if there is anything additional that shows up on the report that you did not reveal.

It depends on how serious the crime was, how long ago it was, and if it involved children.

Is There Any Appeal to a Rejection?

The best step if you wish to appeal and explain your prior actions is discuss with your charter organization representative first. If the charter organization is uncomfortable with your role, there is no chance that you will be allowed to volunteer.

If your charter org rep agrees that an exception may be deserved, then the rep can discuss with a council executive, and they may revisit the decision. However, it is likely that the council has already discussed with the charter organization before rejecting the application. This would greatly decrease the chances that appeal would be granted.

There Will Be More Background Checks

The BSA is also beginning to recheck volunteers as part of an overhaul and focus on you safety. Adult volunteers can expect follow-up background checks every two years, as long as they remain registered members. If you are arrested for any reason, its a good idea to notify at least your charter organization representative, so that person may make a determination if this event may impact your status, and they may be able to proactively discuss with your local council.

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