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Leaving County on Probation? Get Permission (2024 Update)

Whether you can leave the county while on probation depends on the specific conditions of your probation order. Generally, individuals on probation are required to adhere to certain restrictions, which often include limitations on travel.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What is Probation?

When an individual is placed on probation, it indicates they have been found guilty of or have admitted to committing a crime. However, instead of serving time in jail or prison, they are permitted to live in the community under supervision as an alternative to incarceration. During this probationary period, they must adhere to a set of conditions and terms.

Typically, when a court grants probation, a judge will set a jail or prison term but suspend it, meaning the individual will not be incarcerated. However, if the individual fails to adhere to the conditions of probation, they can be jailed or imprisoned for the amount of time previously entered by the judge.

Also Read: California Felony Probation

What’s the Difference Between Formal Probation and Informal Probation?

In most states, there are two primary forms of probation: formal and informal. The law often refers to informal probation as a “conditional sentence,” though it is commonly known in legal circles as court probation or summary probation. According to Nolo, the key distinction between the two types lies in the level of supervision the probationer receives [1].

Informal Probation

Individuals on informal probation are not under direct supervision by a probation officer. Instead, they report directly to the court under certain circumstances, such as:

  • Providing proof of fulfilling probation requirements, like completing mandated classes.
  • Notifying the court of any new arrests.
  • Reporting changes in address.

The lack of direct oversight from a probation officer means that those on informal probation are generally less likely to incur probation violations compared to their counterparts on formal probation.

Formal Probation
Someone on formal probation is supervised by a probation officer. A formal probationer ordinarily must meet with the officer anywhere from once a week to once a month, depending on what the officer requires. Most probation officers will require more frequent meetings, at least initially, for “high-risk” probationers—ordinarily, those convicted of serious crimes or with long criminal records.

After demonstrating consistent good behavior over a number of years, a judge may consider transitioning a probationer from formal to informal probation, reducing the level of supervision required.

Probation Travel Restrictions

Many individuals under probation have concerns about travel restrictions, particularly when they wish to leave the county. The ability to travel while on probation can vary significantly depending on whether you are under misdemeanor (informal) probation or felony (formal) probation.

Misdemeanor Probation
For those on misdemeanor probation, travel is generally permitted without the need to report to a probation officer or the Department of Corrections. However, there are critical considerations to keep in mind.

For instance, if you were sentenced for a misdemeanor DUI, you might have mandatory alcohol education classes, counseling, or community service that could be affected by travel. If your travel plans interfere with these obligations, it would be wise to postpone your trip.

Felony Probation
Those on felony probation face stricter scrutiny. If you are under felony probation, it’s essential to thoroughly understand the specific terms set forth in your probation agreement. These terms might restrict travel beyond your county, state, or even outside the country.

Although your probation officer has the authority to approve travel requests, approval is not guaranteed. If your probation officer declines your travel request, a seasoned criminal defense attorney can petition the court for a modification of the terms or directly negotiate with the probation officer on your behalf. Moreover, if you’ve completed a significant portion of your probation, your attorney might seek to shift your probation from formal to informal, potentially easing travel restrictions.

Consequences of Unauthorized Travel
Traveling without the necessary permissions while on formal probation can lead to severe consequences. If caught, you could be accused of violating your probation, leading to arrest, and potential revocation of your probation. This revocation could result in serving the original sentence that was initially suspended.

In summary, while travel is possible when on probation, it must be carefully managed according to the conditions of your probation and with the proper permissions. Consulting with your criminal defense lawyer to navigate these conditions is crucial to ensure compliance and avoid legal complications.

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