It may feel like life as you’ve known it stopped when you were convicted of a felony. Depending on the severity of the crime, you may have spent time away from your job or family and are working to rebuild your life from the ground up.
Following a conviction, it’s not uncommon to discover that you would be better able to rebuild your life in a state other than where you are currently residing. Perhaps family members have moved away. Or if you had a home before and lost it, you’re unable to find affordable housing. Even a positive event, such as receiving a job offer across state lines can cause consternation.
If you find yourself facing these questions, it’s important to make sure you know what your options are so you don’t waste time and resources pursuing something that in the end will not be actionable due to your conviction, and consequent probation.
So, can you move to another state if you have a felony on your record? As with many things, it all depends.
Transferring After Probation
If you have completed your probation, it is definitely less complicated to move to another state. You should be able to move to another state without any problems. The one exception is if your offense was of a sexual nature and you are required to register as a sex offender in the state you are moving to.
It may be tempting to skip this step, but don’t do it! The consequences are too great. Failing to register can be a criminal offense in and of itself. Basically, the last thing you need when trying to get your life back on track.
Each state has a different sex offender registry, commonly referred to as Megan’s law, and the type of information you’re required to provide can vary. Always double and triple check with your local jurisdiction on requirements. It will also be vital to know if there are any restrictions for housing, employment, etc. before you sign a lease or accept employment. For example, some jurisdictions do not allow someone convicted of certain offenses to work with children, or live within a certain radius of schools, playgrounds, etc.
Keep in mind most jurisdictions require that convicted sex offenders, especially if the victim was a minor, re-register annually as well as each time you move addresses or change employment.
Transferring During Probation
If you’re currently serving probation, the process is going to be challenging, but possible in some cases. The process is more difficult because you will be essentially transferring probation from one state to the other. Working with different states with different resources, policies and regulations can complicate the process.
The process is under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS). The ICAOS was designed to administrate and regulate the formal process of moving probationers and parolees across state lines. ICAOS applies to all 50 states as well as Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. You can learn more about ICAOS here.
So what’s the first step in this bureaucratic process? Talk to your parole officer (PO). Transferring without the permission of your PO is considered a probation violation. Your PO will take into consideration your reasons for requesting a transfer and decide whether to approve the transfer or not. If your PO does not think a transfer is in your best interest, you will be fighting an uphill battle, as their opinion carries a lot of weight in the decision. If they approve, your PO will be responsible for filing the application.
Mandatory and Discretionary Transfers
There are two types of transfers, mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory means the receiving state must accept you. Discretionary means both the sentencing and receiving state must agree to the transfer.
A transfer is only considered mandatory if all the following apply to you. You have more than 90 days or an indefinite time frame for supervision remaining at the time you submit the request. You have a valid plan of supervision and you are in substantial compliance with your current state. You are a resident of the receiving state or you have resident family in the receiving state who are willing and able to take responsibility for supervising you. Lastly, you can obtain employment in the receiving state or you have other means of financial support.
The only exception occasionally recognized for mandatory transfers, if all of the circumstances previously mentioned do not apply, are if you or your family member is transferred to another state for already existing full-time employment.
Unfortunately stand-alone reasons such as treatment, family, employment or schooling are not considered substantial enough for mandatory transfer status.
If you don’t fall under the mandatory transfer category, your other option is to request a discretionary transfer.
As mentioned before, in a discretionary transfer, both the sentencing and receiving state must agree to the transfer. There are many factors that are taken into consideration for transfer approval, and there are some things you can do to improve your chances of success.
The underlying logic for the decision to transfer or not, is the likelihood of success for the felon. If you can show family support, a viable offer of employment, etc. this will improve the likelihood your application will be approved.
If you’ve messed up on any of your probation conditions, this will not create a favorable view of your application. If you’ve missed any reporting requirements, you could be viewed as a flight risk.
There are several ways you can work to improve your chances of being approved for a discretionary transfer. For starters, make sure you have completed any treatment programs, paid all your court fees and restitution in full. Having a viable offer of employment, a place to live and a good record with your PO will help show that you are responsible and serious about moving forward with your life.
Filing your Application
Assuming you’ve got your PO’s support, the next step will be filing your application. You will need to provide supporting documentation and information to your PO regarding your plans in the receiving state. This will include any offer of employment, letters from your family members agreeing to assist in your supervision as well as certifications or receipts showing you’ve completed any additional requirements related to your probation. Proof of previous residency or that of your family members will also be required. Make sure your documents are as neat, orderly and easy to understand as possible, and don’t forget to keep a copy of everything. Lastly, you may be required to pay a transfer fee. The amount varies by state and is paid regardless of approval status outcome.
Your application will be submitted to your sentencing state for approval. Unfortunately, there is no restriction on how long your sentencing state can take to process the request. The wait can be several months long, so adjust your expectations accordingly. You will be notified if your sentencing state has approved or denied your request.
If your sentencing state has approved the transfer, the receiving state has 45 days from the date of receiving the request to approve or deny the transfer request. Once the receiving state approves the transfer, they will send you instructions on how to proceed with your move and how to report once in the state.
It’s very important that you do your research prior to requesting a transfer. Once in a new state, you are required to abide by their rules regardless of what your original sentencing state put in place. Keep in mind that your new state may charge a monthly fee for providing probation services and may have discretion about how to enforce the terms of probation. At the same time, the sentencing state ultimately has jurisdiction over your case and can require you to return to the sentencing state at any time. You will need to meet the requirements of both your sentencing state and the receiving state in order to complete your probation.
Planning for Success
Once you have been approved for transfer, make sure you set yourself up for success. Abide by all rules in your new state and make sure to get a new driver’s license if required. It’s also a good idea to forward your mail and update your mailing address with your former PO and the court so you don’t miss any important dates or requests for information.