Skip to Content
Fighting For You, No Matter Where You're Stationed! 843-773-5501
Top
Defending Those Who Defend Us ®

AWOL & Desertion Defense

Absence without leave and desertion are serious UCMJ violations that can have lifelong consequences if not addressed immediately.

MJA has defended service members charged with desertion and AWOL. If you or a loved one is currently in an authorized absence status from the military, don’t delay in seeking legal help. Contact our military defense lawyers now to learn more.

Article 86, UCMJ (Absence without leave)

Absence without leave (AWOL) occurs when a service member fails to go to his appointed place of duty or simply leaves his unit for a period of time. The following specific conduct may be charged as an unlawful absence under Article 86:

  • Failure to go to appointed place of duty;
  • Going from appointed place of duty;
  • Absence from unit, organization, or place of duty;
  • Abandoning watch or guard; and
  • Absence from unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid maneuvers or field exercises.

Specific intent is not an element of unauthorized absence. However, certain unauthorized absences are considered more serious because of aggravating circumstances. These circumstances include the length of absence, whether the service member left a special type of duty, and if there was specific intent which accompanied the absence. For example, unauthorized absences for more than 3 days and more than 30 days are considered “aggravated” and increase in punishment.

Article 85, UCMJ (Desertion)

Desertion, in contrast, occurs when a service member remains absent from his unit with the intent to remain away permanently.  The following specific conduct may be charged as desertion under Article 85:

  • Desertion with intent to remain away permanently;
  • Desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service;
  • Desertion before notice of acceptance of resignation; and
  • Attempted desertion.

The intent to remain away permanently from the unit can be formed at anytime during the unauthorized absence. This intent can be proven by circumstantial evidence.

Maximum Penalties

The maximum punishment for AWOL increases based on the length of absence and how the absence is terminated. For example, the maximum punishment for “failure to go” is confinement for 1 month and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for 1 month.  In contrast, an unauthorized absence for more than 30 days can result in a dishonorable discharge, total forfeitures, and confinement for 1 year.

Desertion terminated by apprehension carries up to 3 years confinement or, in time of war, death. 

Special Considerations

For a service member who has gone AWOL or deserted, returning to the military may seem like a daunting task. While ending an unauthorized absence never gets easier, you don’t have go it alone.

MJA has decades of experience representing service members charged with AWOL and understands that significant extenuating and mitigating circumstances often accompany a long-term unauthorized absence.

Upon returning to military custody, it is critical that service members be provided with immediate physical and mental health treatment and have an advocate in their corner who will fight for them.

Protect Your Future

If you or a loved one are facing charges of AWOL or desertion or are currently in unauthorized absence status and thinking of turning yourself in, call our office today at (843) 773-5501 for a free consultation. 

What Our Clients Say

  • "Best Experience-Best Outcome-Best Service."

    The relief we felt when we received that phone call from Joshua Hill was something I cannot even describe. If you want someone who will communicate with you and for you, fight for you, and extremely professional, hire Joshua Hill.

    - Lori
  • "Recommending, advising and informing!"

    If you are looking for an attorney who will listen to your concerns and feel that he is personally and professionally invested in results, Joshua Hill is your attorney. I was astonished by the level of knowledge Mr. Hill possesses while proving he is strat

    - Kerri
  • "Experienced, responsive, and knowledgeable."

    mmediately upon my retaining Mr. Healy he was there, accessible, through phone and text, explaining to me all the answers of the questions I had about the intimidating arena I had just been forced into. He replied to all of my concerns thoroughly and speci

    - Tyler
  • "Honest and Amazing Attorney."

    I called Mr.Hill and talking with him, he was very respectful, professional and most of all honest. Whenever I had a question, Mr. Hill was very accurate and informative during the whole process.

    - Rodney
  • "An Excellent Lawyer!"

    Gerald Healy represented my son in a very serious court martial case. He walked with us each step of the way from the beginning to the end. He put in numerous hours and left no stone overturned when working on my son’s case.

    - Anonymous

Our Battles Won

Results Matter. When your career, reputation, and freedom are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at MJA know how to fight and win. Our results speak for themselves.

  • FULL ACQUITTAL

    Camp Pendleton, CA. Marine charged with sexually assaulting a dependent spouse was found not guilty after MJA obtained DNA testing.

  • FULL ACQUITTAL FULL ACQUITTAL

    Fort Stewart, GA. Army Staff Sergeant fully acquitted of larceny and solicitation to commit larceny of government property.

  • CHARGES DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE CHARGES DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE

    Fort Campbell, KY. Sexual assault charges dismissed with prejudice after MJA exposed government discovery violations.

  • FULL ACQUITTAL FULL ACQUITTAL

    Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Senior Airman falsely accused of committing rape and sexual assault against a fellow service member. Not guilty verdict was returned with 30 minutes of deliberation.

  • FULL ACQUITTAL FULL ACQUITTAL

    Kings Bay, GA. Navy Master-at-Arms found not guilty of allegedly unholstering firearm and pointing it at another Sailor.

  • CHARGES DISMISSED CHARGES DISMISSED

    Fort Johnson, LA. Army Specialist charged with multiple sexual assaults released from confinement and had charges dismissed due to false allegations.

When Your Career Is On The Line

Our decentralized approach to military defense ensures that we can represent service members from any branch of the military, of any rank, at any military base or installation stateside or abroad.

For A Free Consultation Contact Us Today

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter where are you stationed.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • By submitting, you agree to be contacted about your request & other information using automated technology. Message frequency varies. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Acceptable Use Policy