Members of the United States Military are expected to fulfil their orders to the best of their abilities whenever possible, regardless of the intensity or danger of the situation. For many soldiers, this often means staying at their post and being there for their comrades when they are needed most. If a soldier or military member is not where they are expected by commanding officers, they are considered AWOL (absent without official leave), and may be subjected to severe penalties.
Proving a Soldier Deserted Their Duties
After a soldier has seemingly gone AWOL but has subsequently been found, it is the job of a military prosecutor to bring charges against them and ensure the soldier is punished. Simply saying that the soldier disappeared for a given amount of time is not enough to prove that they had actually gone AWOL or deserted their duties.
There are three things a military prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in an AWOL case:
- Unauthorized: Going AWOL is not possible if the soldier had an order from a higher commanding officer to leave their post. If there is proof that such an order existed, the desertion was authorized and therefore not desertion at all. Testimonies and written statements can serve as great pieces of evidence to help the accused soldier.
- Permanence: A soldier is only AWOL if they have the intent to leave and never return. For example, wandering off base for an hour or two without permission is not acceptable but it is not as serious a violation of protocol as a full-fledged attempt to go absent without official leave. Soldiers can use alibis or their own testimonies to show that they did intend to return to their post or duties eventually.
- Irresponsibility: AWOL cases also largely hinge upon why a soldier wanted to leave their post without the order to do so. This is up to debate and some speculation, but most cases need to involve the soldier’s specific desire to avoid their responsibility or escape a hazardous situation, such as a battle zone.
Accused of Going AWOL? Defend Your Name Now!
Being hit with an AWOL accusation can be damaging to your reputation and jeopardize your rank and military career. You need to protect yourself as soon as you can and start working on your case with a professional. Contact our Washington D.C. federal employment law attorney, John P. Mahoney, to learn your rights as a soldier under scrutiny and whether or not you should think about appealing to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).