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Is AWOL a federal crime? or only within the military?

Federal Way, WA |

I asked a similar question before, but couldn't get the answer I want.... So, if a person goes Awol, 30 days later, be charged as a deserter, but come back in 45 days valunteerily, so the charged got dropped back to AWOL status.
In that case, does a person who has assited awol soldier a place to stay and food but kept pushing him to go turn himself guilty of any crime even he/she have no intention to hide him or aid on helping him hide?(because he kept telling everyone what day he would turn himself in) aside from the "actual prosecution"which rarely happens, did she violate the federal law of assiting awol soldier if he was once called 'deserter' even his final status got back to AWOL for he has no intention to hide parmenently?

assist would be a wrong word. merely "shared a room and food. "nothing else.

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Attorney answers 6


I changed the practice area above to Federal Crime so that this question would be directed to that type of attorney. I don't think this is a federal crime however there is no doubt that she needs to get an attorney. Aiding and Abetting the commission of a crime is a ancilary offense but it is still a criminal offense so she need to talk to an attorney now.


Questions of criminal liability do not turn on what actually happened. They turn on the evidence that is presented in court. The two may have much or little in common. Avvo is not the place to explore the details of a particular case. It is not confidential, and anybody in the world can read it. It does not afford the techniques for investigation and probing of details that a lawyer would employ in an actual situation.

Don't try to predict what will happen based on your own perception of the facts. That is a useless exercise, and potentially a dangerous one.

You are making a serious mistake trying to get advice on a legal situation by appealing to an online Q&A forum. That is beyound the very modest scope of what such a forum can offer. I strongly suggest that you consult an attorney if you are worried about this matter.


18 USC Section 1381 prohibits the harboring, concealing, protecting or assisting an active-duty member of the armed forces in desertion. However, "absent without leave" is not "desertion," because "desertion" is the intent to leave post *permanently*. A civilian cannot be convicted under this statute unless the Government proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (1) the active-duty member deserted; and (2) the civilian specifically knew of the desertion. Therefore, the answer to your question depends upon the specific facts of the case: if the member was not a deserter, there was no crime; if the member was a deserter, there was no crime unless you knew the member was a deserter *and* you actions constituted concealment, protection or assistance.

Joshua Sabert Lowther, Esq.


Yes, it is a federal crime to "harbor" or "assist" a deserter.
Generally a person is listed as a deserter after 30 days and a federal arrest warrant is issue.
This is so even though desertion is an instantaneous offense. So the minute a person leaves with the intent not to return they have deserted. As a practical matter a short AWOL, even if desertion is prosecuted as an AWOL.;; 703-298-9562, 800-401-1583. Answering your question does not create an attorney-client relationship.



But what constitutes a word "harbor" or "assist"? does providing foods and place to sleep in itself is good reasoning to make a crime if she knows that he is AWOL not a deserter? some people argue that giving food can constitutes harboring, but some people says it needs an "active involvement" such as lieing to a law enforcement or providing transportation to flee which is not the case...


For your application, you should be able to answer "No," you have not committed a crime for which you have not been convicted. That type of question is generally there to determine if there are any charges pending against you that have not yet resolved. It sounds like you have not been charged with a crime at this point, so you can truthfully answer "No."


Are you asking this question for yourself or for someone else? Are you intending to give them legal advice? Be careful about practicing law without a license. Although it was nearly forty years ago, I can say from personal experience (as an MP) that federal prosecutors have pursued charges for the exact actions you describe. As an attorney, I can tell you that due to funding cutbacks, it would be rare for such a prosecution now. Unless you cause enough publicity in an attempt to get her prosecuted.

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