One of the reasons that the United States military is the strongest in the world is the ingrained sense of duty, discipline and respect for hierarchy that service members embrace when they take on the incredible role of soldier, sailor or airman. Virginia residents who have served in the armed forces can attest to the importance of trusting one’s fellow service members and understanding the importance of fulfilling one’s responsibilities not only to protect their personal safety but also to protect the well-being of others in their units.

The importance of duty in the military is, therefore, critical to its functioning, and when a service member evades their responsibilities, serious consequences can result. Prior posts on this blog discussed the military crime of AWOL; this post will expand on what it means to face claims of military desertion.

Like an AWOL charge, a desertion charge is generally based on a service member’s failure to be where they are supposed to be or failure to do what they are supposed to do. However, while an AWOL charge generally applies when a service member is late, absent or otherwise temporarily out of their assigned place, a desertion charge may apply if the service member intends to be permanently separated from their place and duties of service.

A charge of AWOL can become a desertion charge if a service member is absent for 30 days, and the penalties that attach to a desertion conviction can be significant. Service members who have been charged with desertion can find help in attorneys who practice military law. These legal professionals may be able to offer them guidance on how to address the claims brought against them and to mitigate the harm they may face if they are found guilty of the allegations.