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I’m in the Michigan National Guard and I want out. What are…

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I’m in the Michigan National...
I’m in the Michigan National Guard and I want out. What are the laws in Michigan about AWOL and what punishment is there? I have medical documentation that I have sent to my unit that my civilian doctor has said I’m “unfit” for service due to hypogonadism but the military has said that it isn’t a boardable condition on its own.
Submitted: 7 months ago.Category: Military Law
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12/13/2017
Military Lawyer: Allen M., Esq., Lawyer replied 7 months ago
Allen M., Esq.
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 20,574
Experience: Lawyer and current JAG officer.
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Thank you for trusting your question to JA today. I am a licensed attorney with over a decade of law practice and over 20 years of experience in the legal field. I’m happy to be of assistance.

Technically, according to the Michigan Code of Military Justice, which is the state version of the UCMJ and applicable to the National Guard, desertion or AWOL is punishable by court martial. A court martial could result in a conviction, jail time (no time frame specified, but typically less than 5 years) and a dishonorable discharge. Court martials in these circumstances though are exceedingly rare.

What typically happens is that a person has a warrant issued for arrest by the National Guard and that just sits there for a while. Sometimes a year, sometimes longer. Eventually, the unit gets tired of carrying the warrant or renewing it, so they initiate an administrative separation and give you an Other than honorable discharge. This can have a limiting effect on your future job options, particularly any job that does background checks.

Now, all of this really depends on the unit's motivation and the attitudes of the command. They can hold that warrant for a while, until you are arrested, and then court martial you. I've seen it take years for this to happen, and usually when a person least expects it. They get pulled over for a tail light, travel on an airplane or get flagged for some other reason.

If you have any further questions or other facts that you would like me to consider, please let me know. I invite follow up questions, so use REPLY for those. If you have no further questions then good luck going forward and please do not forget to rate my service with a three, a four or preferably a five star rating so that I receive credit for working with you today. Please rate me based on my service and not on your satisfaction with the law, which I am not in control of and I am just reporting to you. Also, feel free to request me in the future, if you have questions concerning a different matter.

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
How could I go about getting out early then? I don’t want to return to drill and with the medical condition I’ve been diagnosed with I don’t think I should. I am in good standing with my unit and haven’t done anything wrong.
Military Lawyer: Allen M., Esq., Lawyer replied 7 months ago

People ask that every day and unfortunately there is never a better answer. Contracts for the military are specifically set up to avoid the loopholes that all soldiers typically talk about being there. I'm former enlisted. I remember the rumors and once I became a JAG, I realized that they were just that...rumors based on false assumptions and anecdotes.

The only way you get out is if your command lets you out. All separations, other than med board separations, are controlled by your commander. If your command doesn't wish to follow a civilian doctor's medical recommendation, they don't have to. You'll have to get a military doctor to endorse that civilian doctor's determination.

I understand that you haven't done anything wrong, but if you don't show up for drill that changes that fact entirely.

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
I thought you could only be punished by UCMJ if you were called on active order and for Michigan state law it would have to be if I were on active orders going AWOL? So missing drills wouldn’t fall into that correct bc i wouldn’t be on federal orders?
Military Lawyer: Allen M., Esq., Lawyer replied 7 months ago

That's right, you can't be charged under the UCMJ. However, each national guard unit has a state version of the UCMJ which applies to their state forces. That's why I specifically went to and referenced the Michigan Code of Military Justice. I addressed this in my first response.

You can be charged under that statute, which allows trial by court martial for a much reduced number of offenses, with AWOL or desertion being the prime one.

So no, you are not correct here. Missing drills specifically violated the Michigan Code of Military Justice.

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Military Lawyer: Allen M., Esq., Lawyer replied 7 months ago

Just to reiterate here though, court martials for AWOL in national guard units (where their state law recognizes such a thing) are EXCEEDINGLY rare.

Again, the most common result is a period of arrest warrant issuance (in some cases) followed by an administrative separation.

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