Soldier AWOL for Slightly Less Than Three Years Labeled Deserter

Civilian and Detailed Military Defense Counsel should be weary of advising AWOL Soldiers properly in light of the recent holding in United States v. Oliver, 70 M.J. 64 (2011). Oliver held that a Soldier could be found guilty of desertion (intent to remain permanently away from the service) even though he surrendered to military authorities, had a part-time job, was living temporarily with his mother and had stored his military gear in a locker for future access.  In light of this case, tell your client to: 1) take his military property out of storage to maintain its appearance and readiness; 2) advise family members that he intends to return to the service; 3) seek temporary jobs and lodging; and, perhaps most importantly 4) reveal to others that the AWOL was wholly influenced by an unfortunate event that, once resolved will result in the prompt return of the Soldier.

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