Absence Without Leave

As a military servicemember, you are required to follow all orders and regulations. This includes showing up to your assigned location. When you are absent from your assigned post or place of duty without leave there may be serious consequences.

A conviction for an unauthorized absence (UA) or being absent without leave (AWOL) can carry harsh penalties. If you are facing UA or AWOL charges it is important to speak with an experienced military criminal law attorney. Your attorney can help to limit the negative consequences of your absence.

Proceeding without an attorney could result in a dishonorable discharge, loss of pay and benefits, and even time behind bars. Contact our San Diego office today for assistance.

Absence Without Leave

Article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes being absent without leave a punishable offense. There are three specific ways you can be considered absent without leave:

  1. You fail to go to your appointed place of duty at the time prescribed without authority;
  2. You leave your appointed place of duty without authority; or
  3. You absent or remain absent from your unit, organization, or place of duty without authorization.

Basically, you can be considered AWOL or UA if you, without having received approval from your command:

  1. Fail to show up to your reported place of duty on time;
  2. Fail to show up to your reported place of duty at all; or
  3. Leave your reported place of duty, unit, or organization.

Once your command reports that you are AWOL you will remain in AWOL status until you voluntarily return or are caught. The best way to limit the consequences of your absence is by voluntarily returning to your command.

Causes of AWOL and UA Status

There are a million reasons why a military servicemember may go AWOL. The government generally does not care what your reason is. As a member of the military, you have an obligation to show up when and where you are expected.

You could potentially face UA or AWOL charges if you are merely late in reporting to your post.

In any event, it is important to understand the types of reasons military servicemembers often give to explain or excuse their unauthorized absences. Common reasons for AWOL or UA status include:

  • Leaving without approval to tend to emergency medical situations at home;
  • Leaving with the mistaken belief that you had approval;
  • Leaving after your request for leave has been denied;
  • Unforeseen personal problems;
  • Stress of the job;
  • Fear of deployment;
  • Overstaying a granted leave of absence;
  • Misunderstanding when and where you were ordered to report; and
  • Change of heart about serving in the military.

Penalties for AWOL and UA Charges

UCMJ Article 86 says that if you are absent without leave the court-martial has discretion in determining an appropriate punishment.

The facts and circumstances surrounding your unauthorized absence will help your command determine the best course of action. In many cases, AWOL or UA charges can be settled without a court-martial.

This is especially true if your absence was negligent or mistaken and you take steps to return as soon as possible. If your absence is flagrant, hostile, and/or intentional your command may choose to proceed with a court-martial.

The consequences at court-martial will generally depend on the length of your absence and your intent.

Penalties for the charge of absence without leave or unauthorized absence include:

You may not even know that you are classified as AWOL. You can limit the consequences you face by voluntarily reporting to your command when you learn that you have been classified as AWOL.

Do not wait for the government to find you. If you fail to return to your command you could face increased charges for desertion. Take the initiative to return to your command voluntarily.

The penalties you face will be less severe if you take control of the situation.

Fighting AWOL or UA Charges

If you are facing AWOL or UA charges it is important to speak with an experienced military criminal law attorney as soon as you can. Your future depends on the decisions you make today.

An attorney can help you minimize the consequences of your unauthorized absence. In many cases, we can help to resolve AWOL charges before you are ordered to face a court-martial.

If you are trying to leave the military permanently we can help you secure an administrative discharge.

Contact our experienced San Diego military AWOL attorneys for a free consultation. We will explain the seriousness of the charges against you and how we can help.