An Overview of Failure to Report for Duty Charges

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When a military service member fails to report for duty, he or she can face serious charges. The following three offenses are associated with a failure to report for duty:

  • Absence without leave (AWOL);
  • Desertion; and
  • Missing movement.

Below is an overview of the acts that constitute these offenses and their associated penalties.  


An armed service member is considered AWOL if he or she fails to go to an assigned location, leaves that location, or is otherwise absent from his or her unit or appointed place of duty. Punishment for AWOL is based on the severity of the offense and the commanding officer’s discretion. However, it often includes pay forfeiture and confinement. For example, a service member who is AWOL for as few as three days can face a penalty of one month’s confinement and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month. A service member who is AWOL for 30 days or more faces possible dishonorable discharge, a one-year confinement, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.


Desertion is the failure to report for duty for a specified period of time. Desertion typically requires proof of intent that a service member intended to leave his or her unit permanently, but any service member who leaves his or her post for 30 days is automatically considered to have deserted. In addition to actual desertion, attempted desertion is also a military crime. Attempted desertion requires proof that a service member’s desertion attempt went beyond mere preparation. Possible penalties for desertion include dishonorable discharge, pay forfeiture, and up to five years of confinement. And although rarely applied, desertion during a time of war can result in the death penalty.

Missing Movement

The intentional or neglectful absence from one’s aircraft, ship, or unit can result in a missing movement charge. Any service member who is convicted of a missing movement charge faces possible dishonorable discharge, pay forfeiture, and up to two years of confinement. However, a military service member may not be found guilty of missing movement if his or her absence was due to uncontrollable circumstances.

Denver Court Martial Defense Attorneys

As noted above, the punishments and penalties for failing to report for duty can be harsh. Therefore, if you are currently facing any of the above charges, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Our attorneys have years of experience defending service members facing a wide array of serious allegations. Combining years of trial experience on high profile cases, our experienced attorneys offer our military clients top-tier representation. Whether you are stationed in the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan or elsewhere, our experienced Denver attorneys are ready and willing to right for your rights regardless of your location. Please contact us for a free consultation as soon as possible.

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