In April 2008, persons with probation travel issues in Texas had their out-of-state travel plans placed on hold when an assistant Texas attorney general met with the Texas Judicial Advisory Council (JAC) and told the judges they lacked the authority under the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision rules to allow anyone on probation in Texas to travel to another state which had not agreed to take-on the person’s supervision. Texas judges feared they they might be liable to lawsuits without specific authority to grant temporary travel permits if probationers they allowed to travel to other states committed bad acts while outside Texas.
Several former criminal defense clients contacted me regarding their probation travel issues after their probation officers told them they could not freely travel outside Texas for business and personal reasons. The judges were requiring probationers to file motions and appear before them to individually examine each request to travel out-of-state. This was a mess for both probationers who needed to travel for short periods of time and for judges and their court-coordinators handling the requests.
Fortunately, both probationers and judges were encouraged to learn of the June 24, 2008 Interstate Commission for Adult Supervision (ICAOS) advisory opinion. The commission clarified the travel issue and helped judges to discern their personal liability for allowing probationers to travel outside Texas. According to the opinion probationers under supervision for “lesser” misdemeanors were not covered by the ICAOS rules. The judges who convicted them would decide whether they could travel outside the state. This was the old rule and typical travel requests would be made through the probation officer without involving the judge. The opinion also said it’s up to the judges whether to permit other probationers (“higher” misdemeanors & felonies) covered by the ICAOS rules to leave Texas for less than 45 days.
The opinion provided judges a blanket of protection from lawsuits if they were ever sued for a probationer’s conduct while outside the state of Texas. The opinion also helped probation departments efficiently process travel requests from persons needing to leave Texas for business or personal reasons.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.