Interviewer: Can you actually leave town while you’re on probation?
The Court Must Know and Approve of Any Travel Plans
Paul Tafelski, Michigan Criminal Lawyer: The banner condition of probation is that you’re not to leave the state of Michigan without the court’s permission. And sometimes we can arrange that kind of permission right at the time of sentencing; for example, by letting the court know that the client has to travel for work and get the judge’s blanket permission for them to travel.
Other times, they may have a specific trip planned or a specific event coming up, and we can get that permission right at the time of sentencing. But if something comes up while they’re on probation that they don’t already have permission for—they have to submit a request through their probation officer for permission to leave the state. Otherwise, if they get found out, it could be a violation of probation.
For example, I had a client call me once that he was living in the state of Florida. Even though he was on probation here, he had permission to live in Florida. However, he went on a cruise at the last minute for a weekend where they left the state of Florida and they went to the Caribbean somewhere.
Well, when he came back in, he went through Customs, and Customs found out when they ran his passport that he was on probation in Michigan and they notified his probation officer here that he had been traveling out of the country, and then his probation officer violated him here.
So bottom line is you do have to take that restriction pretty seriously, too, because the world is getting smaller and smaller with all the computer systems that are in place.
It’s an example of a situation where he just didn’t think about it and just wasn’t taking it as seriously as he should have. Probably, he could have got permission if he would have tried to do it ahead of time. But, instead, he just tried to sneak and then got caught.
Working While on Probation
Interviewer: Can people work while they’re on probation?
The Court May Order You to Maintain Employment
Paul Tafelski, probation lawyer: Usually, the court orders you to work because they realize if you’re not working, you’re probably going to get in trouble. So seeking or maintain full-time employment is one of the standard requirements as well. It gets difficult though, because the more often you have to report and the more often you have to test and the more community service it becomes harder and harder to manage your job.
And so that’s what I was referring to when I said that people need to understand while their case is going on how important it is to be able to get the least restrictive terms of probation that are possible. This way it doesn’t interfere with your job or your life any more than is necessary.
Interviewer: Does probation always have community service involved?
Paul Tafelski: No. It’s fully up to the judge. Sometimes community service can get into the hundreds of hours. But usually it’s more common that it would be something like 20 or 30 hours of community service that need to be fulfilled as a condition of probation.
Can You Perform Additional Hours of Community Service in Lieu of Paying Fines?
Interviewer: Now what if someone is faced with the issue where they’re unemployed, they’re in probation. You mentioned that judges will want to see them working. Will they give them additional community service? Or what would they do for someone who is unemployed and on probation?
Paul Tafelski: Sometimes the court can let you work off some of your fines and costs by doing additional community service. And other times, they don’t have any sympathy at all for you, and they tell you to get a job and get busy.
It depends upon the judge, depends upon the court, all that kind of stuff.
A Conviction May Prevent You from Receiving Federal Student Loans
Interviewer: So as far as benefits go, will people lose their benefits if they’re on any sort of unemployment or receiving government benefits? Would they lose those benefits if they get on probation?
Paul Tafelski: Probation itself won’t affect those benefits, as far as I know. But if you’re convicted of some crimes, you may lose your eligibility for federal student loans.
Travel Restriction for a Misdemeanor case
No matter how the person is able to obtain probation – whether it is by negotiation, pleading guilty, or mitigating any potential damage that a conviction could cause – there may be a greater chance for success with a misdemeanor in his or her life than with a felony. This could lead to better arrangements such as the possibility of traveling out of state or keeping a job after the conviction. Even though probation may be granted, or the entire case will be erased from the record, it is possible for the sentence to be shortened. A probation officer is more likely to allow travel out of state when there are less serious circumstances.
Travel Restriction for a Felony Case
Even though probation may offer better opportunities than staying behind bars for some, the individual might not have many options to travel out of the country if they are convicted of a felony. If the judge and probation officer decide that the individual is a flight hazard, he or she might have difficulties. Once probation is over, you may not be able to travel by train, car, or airplane. A felon convicted of a serious crime may communicate with the probation officer and keep contact open. If that happens, the individual can travel to another country. The probation officer must inform the individual of any changes to their plans or they could be charged with a violation.
If a person is on probation, he or she should first contact their probation officer. It is important to discuss the event, circumstances, and particular situation. If the officer is able to continue communicating and all the details are disclosed, the officer can allow the person to travel. The travel ban may still be in effect if the officer believes that there are chances the person could flee the country or commit another crime. But, the officer will give permission if the convict is trustworthy. To ensure everything goes according to probation rules and conditions, the officer will continue to contact the person.