How a Felony or Misdemeanor Charge Impacts Citizens Who Travel
No one plans to be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime. In my experience as a legal defender, many cases involve good people caught in a bad or unplanned circumstance. If you have never faced a legal charge before, the process is intimidating and complicated, and full of legal requirements that can significantly alter your life and livelihood, as you are waiting for your court date.
Depending on your occupation, travel restrictions can pose very difficult obstacles for individuals charged with a felony crime. Individuals who are long-haul truck drivers, or airplane hospitality stewards or stewardess, or people who work in tourism may rely on the freedom to travel for their income and employment.
Almost every felony charge comes with Court mandated travel restrictions; which remain in effect until the trial date. Some cases may not be heard for a year or longer due to case backlog in our State Courts, and that means additional hardship for citizens who have restrictive conditions due to their pending misdemeanor or felony charge in Dallas.
We get a lot of questions about travel restrictions from the public, when a felony or misdemeanor charge is pending. We hope you find this article to be a good resource guide that helps answer your questions, while helping you avoid some of the common pitfalls and legal complications that can arise due to travel restrictions.
Can I Travel Outside the State or Country with Pending Legal Charges?
When an individual has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, there can be series legal implications if the accused decides to travel outside of the State of Texas, or the United States. Travel restrictions are important to understand, because violating set limitations can actually complicate your legal case.
Misdemeanor charges can result in a criminal record, fines and incarceration time, but does not carry the same weight or strict requirements as a pending felony charge. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, in most cases, there will not be any restrictions to travel. You are free to leave the State of Texas and the country for a short or extended period, provided that you appear for your court date or hearing. But you must appear for all scheduled court and hearing dates, or you may be held in contempt and a warrant for your arrest may be issued.
Felony charges on the other hand, carry significant travel restrictions. You will in many cases, be required to remain within the boundaries of the jurisdiction of where you live, while the case is pending a court date. However, let’s assume that you were charged with a felony offense while visiting Dallas Texas, but you reside elsewhere in the State (or in another State). How does that work?
The court requires that you remain in the jurisdiction where you were charged. However, that is not possible if the individual resides in another city, or State. In these cases, your Dallas criminal law Attorney can file a motion to leave the jurisdiction where you were charged. That allows defendants to return home and resume activities of normal life, while waiting for their pending court date.
What matters most for individuals charged with a felony, is that they carefully review the travel restrictions outlined as part of their pending charge, because the consequences of violating these court-ordered restrictions can be severe. And breach of those restrictions can also significantly complicate your legal defense.
How Do I Find Out What My Travel Restrictions Are?
When you appear before the Judge for the reading of your felony charge, the terms of bail are set at that time by the Magistrate. The specifics of your court restrictions on travel will be outlined in your bail order, which can be explained to you by your Bail Bondsman and also your criminal defense attorney, if you have retained one at the time your charge occurred.
Your Guarantor or Bail Bondsman has a vested interest in making sure you understand the conditions of your bail. It is their job to make sure that you appear for all pending court and hearing dates. Part of the conditions of both a misdemeanor or felony charge, is that the citizen stays in weekly contact with the bail bondsman, as a ‘check’ to make sure the accused is still present and has not left the country. Should the accused fail to attend scheduled court or hearing dates, the bond will be broken, and the bondsman will be responsible to the court for the full cost of the bail. They have a vested financial interest in watching over their bonds, to make sure that does not happen.
In some felony cases, other restrictions may be imposed on the individual that are complex. For instance, in the case of a violent crime, or a charge of stalking or harassment, the travel restrictions may include a ban or restraining order that prohibits the accused from being in contact with the victim, their family, and/or a geographic restriction. For instance, the accused (until the charge is heard in Court and a verdict is delivered) may be prohibited from being within [x] amount of feet from the individual at all times.
It is critically important to fully understand all travel restrictions placed when a felony charge is pending. Often, defendants ‘forget’ some of the conditions that have been set and violating those restrictions can result in immediate incarceration. For repeat travel or restriction violations, the defendant can even be remanded to custody (if they are considered a flight risk, or if they have missed a scheduled court appearance) until their case is heard by a Judge, and a verdict has been decided.
Emergency Travel Outside of Jurisdiction with a Felony Charge Pending
Good people find themselves in difficult situations, when navigating a felony charge. For instance, what happens if you have a parent or loved one that has an emergency health situation out of state, or out of the country? Can you travel to go see your family in these types of emergency events?
Our criminal justice system is not without compassion, but that does not mean that the Court will understand if you breach your travel restrictions, no matter how justifiable the reason is for your need to travel. In these types of situations, your criminal law Attorney can file a petition to allow for Court approved travel within a certain time frame; meaning a full outline of when you will be leaving, when you will be back, and the reason why you need to travel outside of your jurisdiction with your felony charge pending.
Just because a motion or petition for special consideration and a temporary lift on travel restrictions is made, does not imply that the Court will always approve the request. Many factors are considered including an evaluation of the accused in terms of their flight risk. The request must also be reviewed and approved by the bail bondman, who may also request an additional bond if interstate or international travel is required.
What Can Happen if I Violate My Travel Restrictions?
If you are waiting for a court appearance for a pending felony charge, and you do not request and receive permission to travel for a set period from the Court (and notify your bail bondsman) the result can be life altering. A violation of travel restrictions is a subsequent felony charge and carries a mandatory one-year of incarceration. When we are talking about complicating an already difficult pending charge, violating your travel restrictions and any other terms set forth by the Court for your release, can significantly alter the success of your defense for your initial felony charge.
It’s not worth the risk. And the complicated restrictions imposed on individuals charged with a felony offense demonstrate how important it is to retain an experienced criminal law Attorney, to help guide you through the processes, and the legal requirements.
Not ‘knowing’ or understanding the full scope of your Court imposed restrictions is not a defense or argument for defense, should you be found in violation of your terms of release. Britt Redden is an experienced Dallas criminal law defender, who will help you review all your conditions and assist you with compliance, while building an effective defense strategy for your upcoming trial.
When the Red and Blue lights are lit, call Britt!
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