It’s not surprising that those on probation are subjected to many limitations that do not affect those who are not being punished for a crime, but many people wonder if they can travel while serving probation. While you might expect that it will depend on whether you want to travel out of the state or not, the most basic answer is that it depends on whether you are on probation for a misdemeanor or felony.
The Two Types of Probation
As we discussed in the past, probation may be given to those convicted for criminal charges that are both misdemeanors and felonies. Probation for misdemeanor crimes is known as informal or summary probation, whereas it is known as formal probation when used in felony cases. Naturally, summary probation is less serious than formal, so there are fewer rules in this type of probation. In fact, those on summary probation do not even have to regularly check in with a probation officer.
That being said, everyone who is sentenced to probation must sign an agreement detailing the specific rules they must follow and breaking these terms is a criminal offense. While the only universal rule about summary probation is that you cannot break another law, you might also be required to go through anger management courses, attend DUI classes, pay restitution to the victim or refrain from using drugs or alcohol. The good news is that if you are summary probation, there are very rarely any restrictions on your ability to travel, so as long as you continue to complete any mandatory community service, counseling sessions, meetings or classes you must attend, you can leave the county, state, even the country -though long trips will be difficult to arrange if you have any regular commitments to uphold.
What About Traveling on Formal Probation?
That being said, if you’re on probation for a felony crime, travel is a lot more difficult. You might go to Julian for the weekend, but traveling out of the county requires the approval of your probation officer. He is likely to reject your request if he believes that your travel may violate the conditions of your probation agreement, by requiring you to miss a counseling session, for example.
If the probation officer rejects your request, your lawyer may be able to convince the officer to change his mind, or your attorney may request the judge to grant an exception for you to travel. Alternatively, if you have already completed half of your probation period and have followed all the required terms up until this point, your attorney may be able to change the probation to summary probation. This means you will no longer need to get permission from your probation officer or a judge in order to travel and will only need to continue following the terms of your new agreement.
What Happens if You Just Leave Without Permission?
If you travel while on formal probation despite not having permission from your probation officer, you may be accused of violating the conditions of your probation. You can fight probation violations with a skilled lawyer on your side, particularly if you feel you had an emergency situation that caused you to leave the county or if the incident was a result of an accident.
As an example, if you live in Imperial County and were using your boat in a Lake just off the California side of the border and happened to float across the border into Arizona, you would likely avoid legal troubles as long as you came back across as soon as you recognized the mistake. Similarly, if you were injured near Pala and were taken across the county border to a hospital in Temecula, it’s unlikely you would be sent back to prison simply because you got medical care in Riverside County.
That being said, you should always discuss your case with your defense lawyers whenever possible before attempting to explain your situation to the police or your probation officer so you do not hurt your case. That being said, because you have already been convicted and are serving time for a criminal offense, you are not guaranteed an attorney and will be sent to jail without the opportunity to post bail while you await your hearing.
What if I Get a Good Job Offer in Another County?
Unfortunately, things are rarely difficult when you are on felony probation. While it’s possible to get an exemption to allow you to travel between counties for employment purposes, this will usually require hiring a criminal defense lawyer who may be able to convince a judge to modify the conditions of your probation so you can travel between the areas where you work and live. You might think it would be easier to simply move to a home in the county where the new job is located, but moving out of the county when you are on formal probation requires a court order, so you still will have to appear in front of a judge.
What About Moving Somewhere Else?
If you want to move to another county in California while on formal probation, the court will generally approve of a jurisdictional transfer so you will be monitored by the new county’s probation department. If you want to move out of state though, that requires not only a court order but the new sate accepting responsibility for your supervision in an interstate compact agreement. Generally, most court-ordered programs may be completed out of county or out of state. House arrest must, however, be done in county.
If you have any questions about traveling while on probation and any other condition of your probation agreement, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call his law office at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.
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