Last updated on November 23, 2023

Can You Travel during Your Probation?

Probation frequently includes numerous regulations, which often vary based on the type of crime for which you were convicted and the conditions determined by the court and your probation officer. If you are currently serving probation, you might be questioning what limitations you have, including your ability to travel. This question is particularly relevant for those who need to travel due to work obligations, family commitments, or for the enjoyment of a well-earned break.

Navigating the specifics of probation and travel can be challenging, as it typically depends on individual situations. It is crucial to seek advice from a skilled Michigan criminal lawyer who can offer guidance specific to your case. At Michigan Defense Law, our criminal lawyer’s understanding of local laws and regulations may be of immense help in navigating through the intricacies of your probation conditions, helping you to comprehend your rights and limitations. Contact us today at (248) 451-2200 to schedule a consultation.

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.

Case Type Travel Restrictions
Misdemeanor Case Travel may be allowed, especially for less serious circumstances. Probation officer may grant travel out of state. Possibility of keeping a job after conviction.
Felony Case Travel restrictions may be stricter, especially for serious crimes. Judge and probation officer may assess flight risk. Communication with probation officer may be required for travel.

Permitted Travel

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.

Can You Leave the State on Probation

While on probation, it’s typically expected that you remain within your state of residence. Permission to travel out of state must usually be granted by either the court or your probation officer. This could be arranged during your sentencing if you can demonstrate a valid necessity for travel, such as for work or a planned event.

However, unexpected travel needs may arise while you’re on probation. In such instances, it’s crucial to seek permission from your probation officer before leaving the state. Failure to obtain approval could result in a violation of your probation terms, which may carry serious consequences.

Bear in mind, probation conditions aren’t solely about restriction. Often, they’re designed to foster a stable, productive lifestyle. For instance, maintaining employment is typically a requirement of probation, as it’s believed to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

Probation terms can vary significantly depending on whether the offense was a misdemeanor or a felony, with the latter usually carrying stricter conditions. Always consult with your probation officer or legal counsel to understand your specific probation conditions and how they impact your freedom of movement.

If you find yourself facing probation-related issues in Michigan, it’s crucial to have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer by your side. Navigating the complexities of probation regulations and ensuring you adhere to the terms can be challenging. A Michigan criminal attorney can provide you with the guidance and legal representation you need. Contact us today at (248) 451-2200 to schedule a consultation.

Posted in: Criminal Defense
Call Now Button