Having practiced military and civilian criminal law for 25 years I am well acquainted with individuals who spend years looking over their shoulder because they have warrants for their arrest. A warrant for an Away without Leave (AWOL) matter can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, even if the person is never arrested on the warrant. The stress caused from the fear of being discovered can be paralyzing. The fear that the authorities may find out about you from something as simple as submitting personal information when looking for a job or submitting to a background check can be overwhelming. Even something mundane like registering children for school can give one pause for fear of discovery. As a result, a warrant for AWOL may prevent a person from finding a job or even looking, to say nothing of having a normal life. The stress every time there is the possibility of police contact from something so simple as a traffic stop can cause one to become a recluse and withdraw from life.
The good news is that for most service member who go AWOL there is a solution to this life paralysis: Consult with a lawyer then consider surrendering to military authorities. Many service members go AWOL at an early stage of their career, usually during initial training when they have come to the conclusion that the military is not for them. For Long Term AWOL individuals (more than 1 year) they may find that the military is more interested in discharging and clearing their roster then punishing them. In fact the longer the person has absconded, the more likely the military will seek to have them discharged and NOT punished. This is especially true if the person has led a law abiding and productive life since going AWOL. The reason for this, is that when the individual has been gone a long time there is no reason to set an example for other service members by punishing him, since those other service members are no longer around either.
Each case is different. Will Bruzzo, Esquire is a former Marine Corps Major and Judge Advocate who has been representing service members, including long term AWOL individuals, for 25 years. Please call for a free consultation at (714) 547-4636.