For defendants who are fortunate enough to be placed on probation in lieu of incarceration, one question they often have is “Can I leave the county while on probation?” The answer is “maybe”. Being placed on probation is considered a privilege by the court system. It means you are allowed to complete your sentence outside of jail. This gives you the ability to live with family, work, go to church, and enjoy other life activities. In general, you must report to your probation officer regularly and obey the rules he or she discussed with you during your first report date.
Whether or not you can leave the county while on probation typically falls under one of three possibilities:
- Not Without Permission — your probation officer might decide that you cannot leave the county without his or her prior permission. This is not uncommon, especially when you are new to probation and your probation officer has not had time to get to know you. If you were told you need permission to leave the county, ask for clear direction on what “permission” means. Does it mean you must call and speak with your probation officer? What if the office is closed? Are you allowed to leave a message on voice mail? Are you required to ask for written permission? It is best to get these guidelines in writing before it comes up, so there is no confusion on either side about how you handle needing to periodically leave the county.
- Depends on Which County — if you live in one county, and your family is in the neighboring county, or you work in an industry that requires you to travel to nearby counties – such as to landscape customers’ yards – your probation officer might give you conditional permission to leave the county. For example, he or she will show you on a map which counties you can travel to without having to get prior permission. Counties outside those named are not included and for those, you must still get permission. In some cases, you will only need to get permission if you are going to spend the night in another county; however, for a short trip where you will return before the next day, you do not need permission.
- It’s Fine, Just Don’t Get into Trouble — depending on things such as your probation officer’s style, how many counties are within a short distance, and the seriousness of your conviction, it is possible that you can travel between counties at will as long as you don’t leave the state and you don’t get in legal trouble in the other counties.
While it may not seem like a big deal to visit the neighboring county without following your probation officer’s rules, if you are caught there, or the probation officer finds out it happened, you could be charged with a probation violation. Even if you aren’t doing anything illegal while in the next county someone could run a red light and hit your car or you could be witness to a crime and then there is a paper trail that you were outside of your county. It is best to find out what the rules are in your specific case and follow them. Sometimes, however, even with the best of intentions, you might find yourself charged with a probation violation for leaving the county. In that case, consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. If you are in the need of assistance or for more information, please contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC. at (727) 531-2926 for a free consultation and case evaluation.