Deserter, in military affairs, an officer, soldier, or sailor who abandons the public service in the army or navy, without leave. In England the punishment for desertion, is, with certain limitations, left to the discretion of courts martial, death being the extreme penalty. By the articles for the government of the navy of the United States (art. 12), it is enacted that if any person in the navy shall desert to an enemy or rebel, he shall suffer death," and (art. 13) "if any person in the navy shall desert in time of war, he shall suffer death, or such other punishment as a court martial shall adjudge." The rules and articles for the government of the land forces of the United States authorize the infliction of corporal punishment not exceeding 50 lashes for desertion in time of peace, by sentence of a general court martial; and the laws do not permit punishment by stripes and lashes for any other crime in the land service. In time of war a court martial may sentence a deserter to suffer death, or otherwise punish at its discretion.