Can I Leave the Country If I Have a Pending Trial Date?

Depending upon the seriousness of your offense and the existing workload of the court in which your case will be tried, your criminal trial may not begin for months or years after your arraignment date. During that period, the conditions of your bail may circumscribe your financial decisions and geographical movements. Regardless of the reason for your planned trip, your ability to leave the country will hinge on the type of crime with which you have been charged, the laws governing bail in your jurisdiction, and the personal proclivities of the judge assigned to your case.

Courts tend to view individuals charged with certain crimes as "flight risks" who can reasonably be expected to flee the jurisdiction in which they are charged. Such crimes may include financial transgressions like embezzlement or violent crimes like rape and murder. In the first case, the charged individual may have ample offshore assets and find it relatively easy to skip town forever. In the second case, the seriousness of the crime alters the accused's risk-reward calculations and makes flight significantly more likely.

If your presiding judge deems you to be a flight risk, he or she will impose travel restrictions as a condition of your bail. These may vary from case to case, ranging from full house arrest in extreme instances to relatively lenient restrictions on international travel in others. In some cases, you may be asked to surrender your passport to the court until the conclusion of your trial.

If you are not deemed to be a flight risk, you won't be held to specific travel restrictions. However, you won't be completely free to roam the planet. You'll likely have several scheduled hearings between the date of your arraignment and the tentative start date of your trial. You'll also need to meet with your probation officer or bail supervisor from time to time. They may even show up at your business or residence unannounced. If you're absent from any of these meetings or drop-ins, your bail may be revoked and you may face flight charges.

It's easy to avoid this nightmare scenario. Through your lawyer, tell your presiding judge of your intention to leave the country and make a persuasive case as to why you should be allowed to do so. If you can prove that you have family members or business interests overseas, he or she should permit you to leave.

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