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Defend yourself if you’re charged with going AWOL

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2021 | Military Law

Going absent without leave is a serious offense in the military. If you go AWOL, then there is a risk that you could be penalized for doing so.

What’s important to note is that missing a shift or being absent unexpectedly doesn’t necessarily have to result in issues for you if you can show a good reason for your absence. For example, if you’re meant to be on duty on Monday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and got into a car accident on the way to your shift, it would be reasonable that you were not present.

There are other times when you can defend against AWOL charges, too. For example, if the military prosecutor is trying to bring charges but you can explain that you:

  • Had a command from a higher commanding office to leave the post
  • Intended to leave but also to return
  • Left due to a necessary reason, such as an injury

…then you may be able to defend against the AWOL charges by showing a medical excuse or proof of approved leave.

Going AWOL is more than just missing a shift

Going absent without leave is more than just leaving your post or going absent without telling someone accidentally or unintentionally. Going AWOL, going absent without official leave, usually refers to situations where a soldier leaves without the intent to return or when they abandon a post during a hazardous situation in which they are meant to be present, such as in a battle zone.

Since going AWOL is misconduct, it’s necessary to make sure that the case is thoroughly explored and to defend yourself if you’re accused of it. If you followed the necessary leave procedures or got into touch with whoever was in charge of approving your leave as soon as possible to inform them of a reason for your absence, then you may not actually have gone AWOL in the sense that would allow you to be charged.

AWOL should be charged in rare circumstances, such as when leave was denied but the soldier did not come to work, there is no medical documentation for an emergency and so on. It’s worth fighting the charges if you have good reasoning for your absence.