What Constitutes as “Failure to Report for Duty” in the Military?


If a soldier or military personnel member doesn’t show up for duty, they could get in big trouble. There are three main things they could be in trouble for: going AWOL (which stands for absence without leave), desertion, or missing a planned movement. These are serious offenses and come with severe punishments. 

For instance, desertion during a war could even lead to the death penalty. If someone is AWOL for 30 days, it’s desertion. Missing a planned movement happens when a soldier purposefully or carelessly doesn’t join an aircraft or a ship when they’re supposed to. 

If you’re in the military and dealing with severe charges like desertion or being AWOL, hire a good military law attorney on your side to help you out. Look for an experienced AWOL defense attorney known for getting good outcomes in cases like yours.

Let’s take a brief look at what constitutes failure to report to duty.



If someone in the military fails to show up at their designation, leaves that spot, or just isn’t there when they should be, they are AWOL. For instance, imagine a soldier with an assignment to guard a weapon load taking off two hours before their shift ends without permission. In such circumstance their charge will be absence without leave. The Manual for Courts-Martial (PDF) lists different situations that count as being absent without leave and explains what makes each one count.

  1. Not showing up for duty at the assigned time and place is one way someone can get in trouble:
  • The person in assignment of a specific time and place for duty.
  • They had fair knowledge when and where the posting was.
  • But without permission, they didn’t show up at that place at the right time.
  • Another way to get into trouble is by leaving your duty spot without permission:
  • The person was given a specific duty and place to be.
  • They knew when and where they were supposed to be.
  • But without permission, they left that place after showing up for duty.
  • When someone steps away from their duty spot, team, or workplace:
  • They did it without permission.
  • They were gone for a while or until they were caught.
  • When someone’s not around during training or field exercises:
  • They knew it was happening.
  • They purposefully skipped it to avoid the training or exercises.
  • When someone abandons/leaves their post:
  • They were assigned to watch, guard, or duty.
  • They walked away from that responsibility.
  • They did it without permission.
  • They meant to leave their post.

The punishment is dependent on how serious the mistake is and what the commanding officer decides, but it usually means losing pay and confinement. Here’s an example: If someone’s AWOL for under three days, they may get a lock-up sentence for a month and lose two-thirds of their pay for that time. But if it’s over 30 days, they could get a dishonorable discharge, lose all their pay and benefits, and confinement for a whole year.



Desertion is a serious issue in the military. It’s similar to AWOL but more extreme. It means a service member doesn’t show up for duty and actually leaves their assigned post. Usually, desertion involves wanting to leave the unit or duty for good. If someone’s AWOL for 30 days, they’re automatically a deserter, even without proof of intending to leave permanently.

There are different types of desertion, each with specific elements:

  1. Leaving with the plan to stay away for good.
  2. Leaving to avoid a risky or really important duty.
  3. Leaving before getting notice of their resignation acceptance.

Even trying to desert can be a military crime if it goes beyond just getting ready to leave. The punishment for desertion can be severe, like dishonorable removal, losing all pay, and confinement for up to five years. During wartime, the punishment could even be the death penalty, depending on what the court-martial decides.

Missing Movement


If someone in the military neglects or purposefully doesn’t catch their ship, aircraft, or unit, it can lead to a charge for missing movement. For example, if a personnel accidentally misses getting on their aircraft carrier before it takes off, they’ve broken military rules. The consequences could be a bad-conduct discharge, losing pay, and confinement for a year. If someone intentionally misses this movement, they could face a dishonorable discharge and two years of confinement.

Here’s what makes up missing movement:

  1. Being supposed to move with a ship, aircraft, or unit.
  2. Knowing that the ship, aircraft, or unit was about to move.
  3. Not making that movement because of intent or carelessness.

However, if someone’s unable to catch their movement because of something they couldn’t control, they might not be guilty. If a military pilot, intending to board their aircraft, gets in an accident by a tipsy driver, they will not face charges for missing their movement.


As mentioned above, the consequences of not showing up for duty can be really tough. So, if you’re dealing with any of these charges, it’s crucial to get help from a skilled desertion defense lawyer quickly. 

The attorneys have a lot of experience defending service members facing serious accusations. The desertion defense lawyers are ready to fight for your rights wherever you are. 

Get in touch for a consultation as soon as you can.