blog home Military Defense What is the Difference between AWOL and Desertion Charges?

What is the Difference between AWOL and Desertion Charges?

By Joseph Low on September 17, 2013

While many people use the terms AWOL and desertion interchangeably, these charges are not entirely alike. Both are serious accusations in the U.S. military, and if you are being accused of AWOL or desertion, it is crucial that you talk to military defense Attorney Joseph H. Low IV to learn about your legal options. Facing courts martial for such charges is overwhelming and complex. You should not have to go it alone.

What Does AWOL Mean?

If a member of the military is not at his or her assigned post without a valid pass or leave, they may be considered AWOL or “Absent without Leave.” For example, showing up late to a scheduled post or missing an appointment can be considered a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because the military member was absent without authorization.

The penalties for an AWOL conviction often depends on the amount of time the military member was absent and whether he or she returned voluntarily, but can include an administrative discharge, a fine, a reduction in rank, or correctional custody.

What is Desertion from the Military?

Desertion is considered a much more serious offense because it suggests that the accused member intended to leave the military indefinitely or to “shirk important duty.” For example, avoiding a drill or practice marches is not typically classified as important, and the member may be accused of being AWOL. However, if the member avoided hazardous duty or deployment, they may be charged as deserters.

Whether the member was absent for a day or years, the accused may be convicted of desertion if he or she intended to never return to the military and/or skipped an important duty. The penalties for desertion can include a death sentence, life in prison, dishonorable discharge, and/or forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

The Main Difference

AWOL and desertion charges are mainly determined by whether or not the military member intended on returning to military control. Ultimately, the court martial will interpret the circumstances of a particular case, and that is why it is crucial to have a licensed military defense lawyer to defend your side of the case.

Aggressive Military Defense Attorney

As an ex-Marine and skilled California military lawyer, Joseph H. Low IV has the experience necessary to protect his clients’ rights. Accusations of AWOL or desertion can lead to very serious consequences, and the right attorney can help you obtain the best outcome possible for your situation. Please call (888) 454-5569 for a free and confidential consultation.

Posted in: Military Defense

"Joseph, Thank you for your assistance. Your understanding compassion & incredible expertise are admired & appreciated. I will be referring any of my clients who require legal help to you."
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