Military and Veterans Law Center of San Diego, CA

AWOL Military Attorney

Desertion, or Absence Without Military Leave, aka “going AWOL,” are both very serious crimes as prosecuted under UCMJ Article 86. As a member of the armed forces, you have promised your service and dedication to this country. When you go AWOL, you’ve broken that promise; that’s why charges of desertion or going AWOL are treated so seriously. Unlike other offenses, there is no civilian equivalent for desertion. This is why an experienced military attorney is vital for your defense.

Unauthorized Leaves and Military Law

 Unauthorized Absence Without Military Leave (AWOL) and desertion are tried under Article 86 in the UCMJ (Uniform Code for Military Justice). Desertion is the far more serious of the two and is often tried under General court-martial.

AWOL is considered the lesser of the two and often considers mitigating circumstances if there is no proof that you were planning on leaving permanently. Permanent leave is classified as desertion.

Though there is no civilian equivalent for going AWOL or desertion, military personnel can request that an AWOL individual be held and tried under Article 14 of the UCMJ. Charges of going AWOL or desertion are very serious and can result in punishments such as hard labor, confinement, loss of benefits, or a dishonorable discharge. If you are a member of the military in the San Diego area facing these charges, you should contact the offices of Stephen Brodsky as soon as possible!  


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    Desertion vs. AWOL

    Unauthorized absences such as desertion and Absence Without Military Leave are both similar sounding, but they are viewed and tried differently. The difference between desertion and AWOL is defined by their intent.

    Desertion is viewed as an intent by the service member to never return to their military duties. Since “intent” is very difficult to prove in a court of law (no one is a mind reader, after all), prosecutors will rely on circumstantial evidence to prove you never planned to return to service. Examples include looking for include destroying uniforms or your ID card, changing your name or social security number, moving out of the country, or duration of absence. A desertion conviction can result in a court-martial, confinement, and/or dishonorable discharge.

    A charge of going AWOL (though still serious) is not as serious as a charge of desertion. An experienced military attorney such as Stephen Brodsky understands that there might be mitigating circumstances that may have led to your going AWOL in the first place. You might have no intention of absconding from your duties but may have just ended up in a bad situation.

    The most important thing to remember is that timing is crucial; the longer you remain AWOL, the more severe the charges and resulting punishment will be. If you find yourself AWOL, you must turn yourself in as soon as possible. Your superior officers might be more inclined to be lenient if your absence is short and comes with a good explanation.

    Trust an Experienced Military Lawyer

    A charge of going AWOL or desertion is a serious offense. Even if you happen to be tried in a civilian court under Article 14, you remain in unauthorized leave status until you turn yourself into military authorities.

    Since there is no civilian equivalent for desertion or AWOL, you may find that a civilian attorney is woefully underprepared to represent you and argue your case in your best interest.

    As a former combat veteran with 27 years of practicing military law, Stephen Brodsky knows what challenges you face. He will argue your case to the best of his ability and expertise. If you are a member of the armed forces in the San Diego area and face charges of desertion or AWOL, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Brodsky today!