The Knowledge and Experience To Help You Navigate the Military Legal System

San Diego Military Desertion Attorney

Fight Against Desertion Charges

Desertion is an aggravated type of Unauthorized Absence (UA) or Absence Without Leave (AWOL). Military prosecutors charge desertion under UCMJ Article 85.

Article 85 defines desertion as any member of the armed forces who:

  • Without authority, goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently; or
  • Quits their unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service

The charge of desertion is more aggravated if it is committed in time of war or to avoid hazardous service.

Call (760) 512-8161 to schedule a consultation with the experienced San Diego desertion lawyer of Meeks Military Law.

What Constitutes Desertion in the Military?

The key to any desertion charge is the intent or mental state of the service member. Since it is usually difficult to prove what someone is actually thinking at any given time, prosecutors will look to circumstantial evidence to prove intent to remain away permanently.

The following factors can serve as circumstantial evidence establishing intent to remain away permanently:

  • Destruction of uniforms or an identification card
  • Changing a name or SSN
  • Remarks of intent
  • Failure to turn oneself in when the opportunity presents itself
  • Moving to a foreign country
  • Remaining absent for many years

What Happens If I Am Charged with Desertion?

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. Very few people can live an entire lifetime in an unauthorized absence status without someday answering to authorities. It is particularly difficult today, with the advent of pervasive and interconnected databases that reflect unauthorized absence status.

Most unauthorized absence cases are resolved through administration. 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 by a competent military lawyer, such circumstances can reduce punishment or lead to a better characterization of discharge in the event of administrative discharge.

what is the penalty for desertion?

Desertion carries a maximum punishment of dishonorable discharge, loss of all pay, and confinement of five years. For desertion during a war, however, the death penalty may be applied (at the discretion of the court-martial).

Desertion is the most serious of the absentee offenses. The primary difference between AWOL and desertion is the intent to remain away from the military permanently. The punishments vary based on length and intent. AWOL will turn into desertion after 30 days of absence. The punishments include:

  • If the member deserted and the desertion was terminated by apprehension: dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, and confinement for three years.
  • If the member deserts during time of war: death or such other punishment (such as life in prison) as a court-martial may direct.
  • If a member deserted but voluntarily returned to military control: dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, and confinement for two years.

Call Meeks Military Law Today

If you would like to discuss your case with a skilled military lawyer, I have decades of experience as a San Diego military desertion lawyer. I have resolved thousands of unauthorized absence and desertion cases.

Call (760) 512-8161 now for your free consultation at Meeks Military Law.

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