The NMCCA’s recent decision in United States v. Brown, No. 201300340 (N-M.Ct.Crim.App. Feb. 28, 2014) (link to unpub. op.), finds no issue with a guilty plea to unauthorized absence where Appellant used a forged birth certificate to obtain authorized maternity leave. The court rejects Appellant’s argument that she was at most guilty of making a false official statement.
The court cites its own prior opinion in United States v. Hall, No. 201200219 (N.M.Ct.Crim.App. Jan. 31, 2013) (link to unpub. op.), where it adopted the reasoning of the Army CCA that “an absence from a unit, organization, or place of duty is without authority if it is preceded by the use of false statements, false documents, or false information provided by or on behalf of an accused.” Hall, slip op. at 4 (marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Duncan, 60 M.J. 973, 976 (Army Ct.Crim.App. 2005) (link to slip op.). The NMCCA’s decisions in both Hall and Brown reject a contrary decision of the Air Force CCA involving a forged Red Cross message. See United States v. Legaspi, 1995 CCA LEXIS 93 (A.F.Ct.Crim.App. 1995) (slip op. not available online).
Best I can tell, CAAF wasn’t petitioned in Duncan. CAAF denied review of last year’s decision in Hall, for what that’s worth. It will be interesting to see if CAAF is interested in Brown. The case seems like a good candidate for review to determine just what constitutes “false information” sufficient to vitiate the effect of actual authorization for an absence. Anyone who isn’t completely honest about their plans when completing a leave request (or perhaps any national capital region commuter who might disingenuously claim “traffic” as an excuse for tardiness) should take note.