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AWOL Consequences: Punishment for Desertion

Photo Military soldier

AWOL (Absent Without Leave) and desertion are serious offenses in the military that involve the unauthorized absence of a service member. AWOL refers to the temporary absence of a service member without proper authorization, while desertion refers to the intentional and permanent abandonment of military duties. It is crucial for individuals in the military to understand the consequences of these actions, as they can have severe repercussions on their military career and future opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • AWOL and desertion are serious offenses in the military that can result in severe consequences.
  • Desertion is defined as the intentional abandonment of one’s duties and responsibilities in the military.
  • Consequences of AWOL and desertion can include court-martial, imprisonment, and dishonorable discharge.
  • Military punishments for desertion can range from confinement to death, depending on the severity of the offense.
  • Dishonorable discharge can have long-lasting effects on a person’s future employment and ability to receive military benefits and retirement.

Legal Definition of Desertion

Under military law, desertion is defined as the intentional and permanent abandonment or unauthorized absence from one’s unit, organization, or place of duty with the intent to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important responsibilities. This includes situations where a service member fails to report for duty, leaves their assigned post without permission, or fails to return after an authorized absence. Desertion can also occur if a service member leaves their unit during a time of war or declared emergency.

Examples of actions that can lead to a charge of desertion include fleeing during combat, failing to report for duty after leave or liberty, and intentionally missing deployments or training exercises. It is important to note that intent plays a significant role in determining whether an absence constitutes desertion. If a service member has no intention of permanently abandoning their duties and intends to return, it may be considered AWOL rather than desertion.

Consequences of AWOL and Desertion

The consequences of going AWOL or deserting can be severe and have long-lasting effects on a military career and future opportunities. In addition to potential legal consequences, such as imprisonment and fines, individuals who go AWOL or desert may face dishonorable discharge from the military. This can have significant implications for future employment prospects, as well as the loss of military benefits and retirement.

Military Punishments for Desertion

Country Time Period Punishment Number of Executions
United States Civil War Execution by firing squad 267
United Kingdom World War I Execution by firing squad 306
Germany World War II Execution by firing squad or hanging 20,000+
North Korea Present Day Imprisonment, hard labor, or execution Unknown

The potential punishments for desertion vary depending on the circumstances of the case. In general, desertion is considered a serious offense and can result in imprisonment, fines, and a dishonorable discharge. The length of imprisonment can range from a few months to several years, depending on factors such as the duration of the absence and the intent of the service member. Fines can also be imposed, which can further impact a service member’s financial situation.

It is important to note that the military justice system operates differently from civilian courts, and the punishments for desertion are determined by military law. The severity of the punishment may also depend on whether the desertion occurred during a time of war or declared emergency. In such cases, the consequences may be more severe due to the potential impact on national security.

Dishonorable Discharge and its Effects

A dishonorable discharge is the most severe form of administrative discharge from the military and is typically reserved for serious offenses such as desertion. It is a permanent stain on a service member’s record and can have significant consequences for their future. A dishonorable discharge can affect a person’s ability to find employment, obtain housing, and access certain benefits and services.

Employers often view a dishonorable discharge as a red flag, as it indicates a serious breach of trust and responsibility. It can make it difficult for individuals to secure meaningful employment and may limit their career options. Additionally, a dishonorable discharge can affect eligibility for certain government programs and benefits, such as veterans’ benefits and educational assistance.

Loss of Military Benefits and Retirement

Desertion or going AWOL can result in the loss of various military benefits and retirement opportunities. Service members who are convicted of desertion may lose access to healthcare benefits, housing allowances, and other forms of financial support provided by the military. This loss can have significant financial implications for individuals who rely on these benefits to support themselves and their families.

Furthermore, desertion can impact a service member’s eligibility for retirement benefits. In order to qualify for retirement benefits, service members must meet certain criteria, including completing a minimum number of years of service. Desertion can result in the forfeiture of these benefits, leaving individuals without the financial security they may have been counting on for their future.

Civilian Consequences of Desertion

Desertion can have serious consequences in civilian life as well. A criminal record resulting from a desertion charge can make it difficult for individuals to find employment, obtain housing, and access certain services. Many employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring process, and a dishonorable discharge or criminal record can significantly impact a person’s chances of securing employment.

Additionally, a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to obtain professional licenses or certifications in certain fields. This can limit career opportunities and hinder professional growth. It is important for individuals to understand that the consequences of desertion extend beyond the military and can have long-lasting effects on their civilian life.

Repercussions on Future Employment

A desertion charge and dishonorable discharge can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to find employment in the future. Employers often view military service as an indicator of discipline, responsibility, and commitment. A dishonorable discharge undermines these qualities and can make it difficult for individuals to convince employers that they are reliable and trustworthy.

Furthermore, many employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring process. A dishonorable discharge or criminal record resulting from desertion can be a red flag for potential employers, who may question an individual’s character and ability to fulfill job responsibilities. This can make it challenging for individuals with a desertion charge to secure meaningful employment and may limit their career options.

Effects on Security Clearance

A desertion charge can also impact a person’s security clearance, which is required for many government and defense-related jobs. Security clearances are granted to individuals who have been deemed trustworthy and reliable, as they involve access to sensitive information and facilities. A dishonorable discharge or criminal record resulting from desertion can raise concerns about a person’s trustworthiness and may result in the denial or revocation of a security clearance.

Losing a security clearance can significantly impact a person’s job prospects, as many positions require this level of clearance. It can limit career opportunities and hinder professional growth, particularly in fields that require access to classified information or involvement in national security matters. It is important for individuals to understand that the consequences of desertion extend beyond immediate legal and military repercussions and can affect their future job prospects.

Seeking Legal Assistance for AWOL and Desertion Cases

Given the serious consequences of going AWOL or deserting, it is crucial for individuals facing these charges to seek legal assistance. A lawyer experienced in military law can help navigate the complex legal process, protect the rights of the accused, and work towards mitigating the consequences of desertion.

A lawyer can provide guidance on how to present a strong defense, gather evidence, and negotiate with military prosecutors. They can also help individuals understand their rights and options throughout the legal process. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea agreement or alternative sentencing options that can reduce the severity of the punishment.
Desertion and going AWOL are serious offenses in the military that can have severe consequences on a service member’s career and future opportunities. Understanding these consequences is crucial for individuals in the military, as it can help them make informed decisions and seek legal assistance if necessary. The potential repercussions of desertion extend beyond immediate legal and military consequences and can impact a person’s civilian life, employment prospects, and access to benefits and services. Seeking legal assistance from a lawyer experienced in military law is essential for individuals facing desertion charges, as they can provide guidance and work towards mitigating the consequences of these actions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the legal consequences of going AWOL, you might find this article on immigration law by Sweep Law informative. It delves into the various penalties and punishments that individuals may face for abandoning their immigration status without proper authorization. Understanding the implications of such actions is crucial, especially for those navigating the complex landscape of immigration law. To gain further insights, check out the article here. Additionally, Sweep Law also offers valuable resources on other legal topics such as terms and conditions (link) and tax law (link).

FAQs

What is AWOL?

AWOL stands for Absent Without Leave. It refers to a military member who is absent from their assigned place of duty without permission.

What are the consequences of going AWOL?

The consequences of going AWOL can include disciplinary action, loss of pay, reduction in rank, and even court-martial. In some cases, it can also result in a dishonorable discharge from the military.

What is a court-martial?

A court-martial is a military court that tries members of the armed forces for violations of military law. It is similar to a civilian court, but the procedures and rules are different.

What is a dishonorable discharge?

A dishonorable discharge is the most severe form of administrative discharge from the military. It is given to service members who have committed serious offenses, such as desertion or going AWOL. It can have serious consequences for the individual, including loss of benefits and difficulty finding employment.

Can a service member be punished for going AWOL even if they have a valid reason?

Yes, a service member can still be punished for going AWOL even if they have a valid reason. However, if the reason is deemed legitimate, it may be taken into consideration during the disciplinary process.