Why Is AWOL Illegal?

If you are a member of the military and realize that you could be prosecuted in military court for going absent without leave (AWOL), you may wonder, why is AWOL illegal? Every military service member in every branch of service is required to report for duty with their units at appointed times. Failure to meet this duty diminishes force readiness and can leave commanding officers accountable for their subordinates who do not show up for duty when required.

Understanding AWOL Charges

An AWOL lawyer is a fantastic resource for any US service member who has been charged with going AWOL. Aaron Meyer and the team at Aaron Meyer Law have years of experience providing comprehensive defense representation to members of the United States military in every branch of service, and we can put this experience to work for you in your impending AWOL case.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the code of conduct for every member of the military, and the various articles of the UCMJ cover various topics that all service members must understand. Article 86 includes the definition of AWOL, explains why AWOL is illegal, and outlines the penalties for different levels of AWOL offenses in the military.

Why Is Going AWOL Illegal?

All members of the US military are required to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities. A military service member is expected to meet a higher standard of character and good conduct than the average civilian. AWOL is illegal and taken very seriously by military prosecutors because it is a direct violation of the most basic expectation a service member is required to meet: showing up at their appointed duty location at the appointed time.

Going AWOL is illegal in order to maintain force cohesion and readiness and to ensure accountability for all service members. All branches of the military tend to punish AWOL offenses severely because it will discourage other service members from making the same mistake and further diminish force readiness and cohesion.

As a member of the military, you must follow the Articles of the UCMJ and take your duties very seriously. If you are permitted to take leave, you are expected to make sure that you can return to your duty post on time. It is possible for some issue outside of your control to prevent you from returning to your post on time, but if this occurs, you are expected to communicate the issue to your commanding officer or another member of your unit.

Aaron Meyer Law excels at providing compassionate and responsive military criminal defense to service members in all branches of the military. Our firm can respond to your request for defense counsel as quickly as possible and immediately begin reviewing the details of your case to help formulate the most effective possible defense. We can seek to have your charges dropped if possible to preserve your military career, or at least do everything we can to argue for leniency.

Ultimately, going AWOL can be one of the biggest mistakes any service member makes regarding their career, but there are always two sides to every story. An AWOL lawyer can help you make a clearer sense of your situation and approach an impending criminal investigation in your branch of service with greater confidence.


Q: Can You Go to Jail for Being AWOL?

A: Yes, it is possible to go to jail for going AWOL. The penalties for a service member convicted of AWOL in military court can include forfeiture of their pay and allowances and a period of confinement in military prison. The length of time they lose their pay, and the length of their confinement will typically depend on the intention behind them going AWOL and the length of time they were AWOL.

Q: What Is Desertion?

A: Desertion is similar to going AWOL, except when a service member deserts, they have no intention of returning to duty. This is a more severe offense than AWOL and can lead to severe penalties, including dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay and allowances. It is possible for a service member to go AWOL with the intention of returning, but if they are gone for more than 30 days, they could be classified as a deserter.

Q: Can I Defend Against an AWOL Charge?

A: You can potentially defend against an AWOL charge. However, unless you can prove that you attempted to contact your commanding officer or unit and were unable to do so due to forces beyond your control or if any other factor physically prevented you from returning to duty as required, it will be very difficult to build a defense. An experienced AWOL lawyer can explain the technical defenses that may be available to you.

Q: How Can I Reduce Penalties for Going AWOL?

A: It is possible for you to reduce penalties for AWOL if you turn yourself in as quickly as possible before you are apprehended by military police. If you explain your side of the situation, it is possible to avoid long-term confinement and the other harsh penalties that might otherwise be assigned to you. If you are unsure how you could potentially reduce your penalties, it is vital to consult an AWOL lawyer as soon as you can.

Q: Why Should I Hire a Military Defense Lawyer?

A: You should hire a military defense lawyer because they can provide a higher level of defense counsel than you could expect from a detailed attorney appointed by the military. Your private AWOL lawyer can determine whether there are any technical defenses you could employ to avoid conviction, but they can also help mitigate your penalties if you did commit an AWOL offense.

Aaron Meyer Law has successfully defended US service members in every branch of the military, including many defendants charged with AWOL offenses. If you have been charged with going AWOL and do not want to lose your military career, the right AWOL lawyer on your side can be a tremendous asset for whatever your case entails. Contact Aaron Meyer Law today to schedule a consultation with our team and learn how we can assist you with your defense.

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