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Is Quitting the Military a Crime?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

When you joined the military you pictured international adventures, being part of a team, and fulfilling a dream. But now you are a few months into your enlistment and instead of feeling thrilled, you're filled with regret. Should you quit? Can you? What are the consequences?

Early release from the army is possible, although you have signed a somewhat extraordinary employment contract. Don't just go Absent Without Leave (AWOL) or desert without a word because that will get you punished by a military tribunal. But be aware that there are certainly limits to how you can leave the army.

Different Types of Discharge

You can't just quit the Army once you are on active duty. You are contractually obligated to remain in service for the period to which you committed. But soldiers are discharged from duty early due to physical or psychological inability to perform duties, for drug abuse, misconduct, and other infractions.

  • Honorable Discharge: After a soldier completes the terms of enlistment (a minimum of two years), if there were no issues with the service, he or she is discharged honorably. People who are discharged for psychological or medical reasons may be discharged honorably despite not having completed their full enlistment term.
  • Psychological Condition: Many soldiers discover when they are in deep that the military is not right for them. Psychological discharges are made by army administration, not by individual soldiers, and are based on an assessment of psychological unfitness for duty. An army psychiatrist will make the decision based on your personnel and counseling records. If your records are good, a discharge for a psychological condition will not bar honorable discharge.
  • Medical and Physical Discharge: An honorable discharge is also available to soldiers who cannot stay in the military due to medical issues. Similar to a psychological condition, the medical discharge is based on documentation and records. If you are injured on-duty or off-duty and can no longer serve, you may be released from your commitment with no negative consequences.
  • Dependency Discharge: When conditions in a soldier's life change, the military does have way to recognize this. A dependency discharge allows a soldier to leave the military honorably to care for dependents.
  • Dishonorable Discharge: Soldiers are released from their commitment to the military for drug abuse, bad behavior, crime, or other issues. These discharges are, obviously, dishonorable, and the behaviors behind them can lead to consequences beyond the military.

Consult With Counsel

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, speak to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or no fee.

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