As summer comes to a close, we’re all trying to squeeze in last-minute trips. Furthermore, as the holiday season rapidly approaches, you may have some questions about your ability to travel to spend these special days with loved ones. Once you’ve been convicted of a crime, the state may place certain restrictions on your rights and privileges through the completion of your sentence. Whether you’re on probation or parole, if you have an interlock device, or you’ve completed your sentence and are just trying to stay on good terms with the law, you should always ensure you won’t violate any conditions of your sentence by traveling. This will prevent you from receiving any violations that could result in more court dates, fees, and even incarceration.
Traveling While Awaiting Sentencing:
If you’ve been arrested for a criminal charge but have not yet been found guilty, you are typically allowed to travel freely. However, TCA §40-11-116 permits the state to “impose reasonable restrictions on the activities, movements, associations and residences” of a defendant. This means the magistrate can order you, as a condition of your release on bail, to stay within a certain geographical area. Before traveling while awaiting sentencing, read the conditions of your bail thoroughly to ensure that you are not at risk of having to return to jail. In addition, if the court imposes any further restriction on your movements or activities during any of your court appearances, be careful to follow these instructions closely.
Traveling While under Supervision in Tennessee:
Tennessee is broken up into three federal districts: Western, Middle, and Eastern. Each of these three districts has its own supervised release restrictions, including restrictions on travel.
For the Western, Middle, and Eastern districts of Tennessee, supervisees are allowed to travel freely within the counties of their district without obtaining permission from their supervision officer. Unless the judge in your case grants you permission in advance, however, you must gain approval from your probation officer before traveling outside of the counties of your district. Be sure to make these requests at least two weeks in advance, and also be aware that non-essential requests are not likely to be approved within the first 60 days of supervision.
It is always best to get travel permission in writing for your record keeping.
While your supervision officer may grant permission for you to travel within the state, they may also place restrictions on your travel. For example, probation officers may allow you to travel out of state, but only for work purposes.
Traveling while under Supervision in Georgia:
Georgia, like Tennessee, is broken into three federal districts: Northern, Middle, and Southern. Also like Tennessee, individuals under court-ordered supervision in Georgia are not permitted to leave the district they are supervised in without the permission in advance from their supervision officer. This being said, you may still travel freely within the counties of your district through the duration of your sentence.
Non-essential travel outside of your district is likely to be denied within the first 60 days of supervision. After that, be sure to submit your travel request well in advance of planned travel. In addition, be aware that travel permissions may be denied to individuals who are delinquent on court-ordered financial obligations, such as fines. Filling out this form is an ideal way to communicate your travel plans with your supervision officer.
In both Tennessee and Georgia, the United States Parole Commission must approve all foreign travel, vacation travel exceeding thirty days, and recurring travel more than fifty miles out of an individual’s federal district. The approval process can take 30 days, so be sure to submit your request well in advance of planned travel.
See the U.S. Parole Commission’s Rules and Procedures Manual for more information about parole restrictions.
Traveling out of the country with a criminal record:
It is generally inadvisable to leave the country while there is a warrant out for your arrest, while you are on probation or parole, or while you are awaiting trial. This may be perceived as an attempt to flee the country. The best thing you can do until your charges have been dismissed, you’re acquitted, or you’ve served your sentence is stay put. After you’ve satisfied all the requirements of the court, you can usually resume all your travel plans.
Can you obtain a passport as a convicted felon? The short answer is yes, however the federal government can also deny you a U.S. passport based on your criminal record. According to 22 CFR § 51.60, the Department of State may refuse to issue a passport to subjects of outstanding warrants for a felony arrest, subjects of a subpoena, individuals on probation or parole, individuals registered as sex offenders, and more. Furthermore, under 22 U.S. Code § 2714, certain convicted drug traffickers may also be denied a passport.
If you are able to obtain a passport, countries outside of the United States may still deny you entry to their country due to your criminal record. Before booking plane tickets and hotel rooms, do some research to ensure you are not barred from a country because of past charges. Canada, for example, reserves the right to deny entry to any travelers who have a criminal history. This primarily applies if the individual was sentenced to 10 years or more in prison, however many countries will also flag visitors who were convicted of violent or drug-related offenses.
TSA pre-check applications may be denied to individuals who were convicted of certain crimes in the last seven years, including smuggling, fire-arm, and controlled-substance related charges. However, don’t worry that you’ll be refused permission to fly entirely. TSA does keep a “no-fly” list, however this is limited to individuals suspected to be linked to terrorist efforts. It is extremely unlikely that an individual with a felony conviction who is not connected to a terrorist group would end up on the no-fly list.
Traveling with an Interlock Device:
When an individual is ordered by the court to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, the court may at the same time impose certain geographic or time restrictions on that person’s ability to drive. It is important to follow the court’s instructions so that you can fulfill all the requirements of your sentence and eventually have your ignition interlock device removed. Before traveling, check to ensure there are no court-ordered geographic restrictions on your license.
Interlock devices must be checked at least every thirty days to ensure they’re functioning properly. If you plan on being out of town on a day your interlock is supposed to be serviced, be sure to notify the provider and make appropriate arrangements. You may be able to have your device serviced at a facility in the vicinity you’re traveling to, or you may be able to reschedule your appointment. Be careful not to skip any appointments, as this may incur penalties.
In addition, be aware that going out of town does not change the functioning of your ignition interlock device. It won’t be possible to circumvent the device while you’re out of town, and any attempts to interfere with the device or drive while intoxicated will be recorded by the ignition interlock device. Even if you travel out of state, you must observe the conditions of your interlock device, because the states support each others’ interlock laws.
If you do not plan on taking your own car on vacation, be sure not to drive another person’s car or a rental car which does not have an interlock device. During the period in which their interlock device is imposed by the court, individuals are not permitted to drive other vehicles. You can face penalties from the state your interlock was imposed in if you’re pulled over while driving without an interlock in another state, in addition to any charges for traffic violations.
Traveling after being charged with criminal offenses can seem complicated, and even impossible. However, don’t feel disheartened. If you follow the appropriate routes and the directions of the court, you may still be able to put yourself on the road to a relaxing vacation. Reach out to Best & Brock, PLLC if you are facing restrictions on your license, a revoked license, ignition interlock problems, or other legal issues which interfere with your ability to travel. Our experience legal team is here to help you make the most of your summer and the upcoming holiday season.