The weather’s already getting warmer. Spring and summer are the seasons when people like to travel and get away from the Southern California heat, but if you are on probation in this state after being convicted of a crime, will you be allowed to enjoy an out-of-state vacation?
What exactly are California’s travel rules for convicted offenders who are on probation? What if you have a family emergency or a good job offer in another state? Can a criminal defense law firm in CA help?
EXACTLY HOW DOES PROBATION WORK IN CALIFORNIA?
In the state of California, if you are convicted of a crime, your defense lawyer can ask the judge to place you on probation rather than sending you to jail or prison. If you are sentenced to probation, you should realize that it is an expression of leniency from the court.
Probation provides convicted offenders with a chance to serve their sentences outside of the prison system. Any violation of the terms and conditions of probation can result in the revocation of probation, and an offender may have to serve the remainder of his or her sentence behind bars.
WHAT ARE THE TWO WAYS THAT PROBATION IS SERVED IN CALIFORNIA?
“Informal” or “misdemeanor” probation in California allows low-risk convicted offenders to serve their sentences while residing (and usually while working or attending school) in the community rather than going to jail.
“Formal” or “felony” probation is an alternative to a prison sentence. Formal probation in California allows an offender who has been convicted of a felony to serve all or a portion of his or her felony sentence in the community while under close supervision.
Offenders who are convicted of misdemeanor drug crimes may also be sentenced to formal probation when a judge imposes drug testing as a condition of probation, and a probation officer is required to administer the drug tests.
HOW ARE FORMAL AND INFORMAL PROBATION DIFFERENT?
Both formal and informal probation require probationers to adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of probation, but there are several important distinctions between formal probation and informal probation in California.
Informal probation in this state is usually for one to three years. Formal probation lasts from three to five years. Probationers who are serving formal probation must report frequently to a probation officer. Informal probationers report directly and only periodically to the court.
If you are serving informal probation in California, you are generally allowed to travel freely. You do not have a probation officer, so no one has to be contacted or informed when you travel, even if you travel out-of-state.
WHAT LIMITS TRAVEL IF YOU SERVE INFORMAL PROBATION?
However, even on informal probation, you don’t have complete travel freedom.
Individuals on informal probation may travel freely provided that they continue to meet all the terms of probation, which may include attending classes or counseling sessions and performing community service. You should not travel if it prevents you from fulfilling these obligations.
Any failure by someone who is serving informal probation to appear in court as scheduled is a violation of probation. When this happens, the judge will usually issue a bench warrant for the person’s arrest.
WHAT TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS WILL YOU FACE ON FORMAL PROBATION?
California imposes travel restrictions on those serving formal probation in several ways. As a condition of probation, some persons who are on formal probation are restricted even from going to the mall or the movies, and they may travel only for work or for legal or medical reasons.
If you are serving formal probation, the terms and conditions of your formal probation may not allow you to travel beyond the California county of your residence. You will need to discuss with your probation officer any plans to travel – even for a family emergency.
Depending on the precise terms and conditions of your formal probation, your probation officer may or may not have the authority to approve a trip outside of the county.
HOW CAN DEFENSE LAW FIRMS HELP?
Do you have any recourse if you are serving formal probation, you need to travel, and your travel request is denied?
If you are serving formal probation in Southern California, an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can ask a judge to allow you to travel. Your attorney might also speak with your probation officer about allowing you to travel.
If you have successfully completed at least half of your formal probationary period, it is also possible that a good criminal defense lawyer can have your probation status changed from formal to informal probation.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE A GOOD JOB OPPORTUNITY – SOMEWHERE ELSE?
In most cases, relocating to another county probably will not be possible if you are on formal probation. If you live in Orange County, you probably would not be allowed to move to Los Angeles County, for example, or to Nevada. But sometimes, exceptions are made.
If you are on formal probation, and if you have a serious and important employment opportunity outside of the county you are now living in, talk with your probation officer, and if your probation officer can’t help, speak to an accomplished Southern California defense lawyer.
It is always possible that a judge might make an exception if you have a genuine, legitimate job opportunity in another jurisdiction.
Quite frankly, travel restrictions can pose a barrier to a convicted offender’s plans for a new life. Probation travel restrictions may keep a probationer from relocating to live with close relatives or to accept a good job offer.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A DEFENSE LAWYER?
However, when you have a genuinely good reason, you might be able to get special permission to travel or relocate. It’s a complicated legal process, and in Southern California, you will need the advice and help that an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can offer.
Of course, you are only placed on probation if you are convicted of a crime. If you are charged with any crime, or if you are charged with a violation of probation, a good criminal defense lawyer can help, but you’ll need to contact that lawyer at once.
If you are on probation in California but you must travel or relocate, a good defense attorney can review your case and speak to a judge or a probation officer on your behalf. You have the right to ask the court for permission to travel, and you have the right to a good lawyer’s help.