Unauthorized Absence


Unauthorized Absence (UA) or Absence Without Leave (AWOL) is one of the most common offenses under the UCMJ.   Military prosecutors charge this misconduct under UCMJ Article 86. 


Article 86 provides:

Any member of the armed forces who, without authority:


(1)  fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;

(2)  goes from that place; or


(3)  absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


Various factual circumstances can aggravate an unauthorized absence and make it more serious.  Common aggravating factors include:  remaining absent for a lengthy period of time; abandoning watch or guard; being absent with intent to avoid maneuvers, field exercises, or deployment (also charged under UCMJ Article 87 – Missing Movement); and having the absence terminated by apprehension by law enforcement authorities.


Almost always, the best course of action for a member in an unauthorized absence status is to return to military authority voluntarily for resolution of the situation.  A member should not destroy or discard his or her uniforms or identification card.   Such actions can provide the foundation for the more serious charge of Desertion under UCMJ Article 85.


Most unauthorized absence cases are resolved administratively.  However, a command always has the option of resolving more aggravated cases at court-martial.  Many unauthorized absence cases have important extenuating and mitigating circumstances.  When presented properly, such circumstances can reduce punishment or lead to a better characterization of discharge in the event of administrative discharge. 


If you would like to discuss your case with a skilled military lawyer, Jeff Meeks and Bruce White have over 45 years of experience.  They have effectively resolved thousands of unauthorized absence cases.  Call now for your free consultation.

Manual for Courts-Martial (2012)