How to Get a Passport as a Felon
So you’ve decided to flee the country. Not for any illegal purpose, obviously, just to get away, to see the sights and sounds of a new place. Everyone already knows that the biggest hassle with international travel isn’t airline bag fees or brushing up on your language skills - it’s getting your passport in order. But what happens to that right when you have a felony record? Does your vacation to the Bahamas suddenly become an international incident? How do you get a passport with a felony?
In Arizona, a prior felony conviction isn't going to stop you from getting away for a while - usually. As long as you aren’t currently facing charges, on probation, or on parole, you are free to move about the country and any other country that you like! However, this is the American justice system we’re talking about, so of course some restrictions apply, such as:
A.) Treason or Trafficking charges. Anyone found guilty of crimes against the country or who was previously found guilty of bringing illegal goods across international borders is prohibited from obtaining a passport. Whether you think you learned your lesson or not isn’t the Federal Government’s problem or concern - that’s a one-strike deal.
B.) Owing more than $2,500 in back child support. Sorry, but the court isn’t going to allow someone who owes their child money to use that money for an international endeavor. Once you’ve paid your child support, you’ll then be removed from the Department of Health and Human Services list and you’re free to reapply for a passport.
“But Palestini Law, I had a passport before I committed a felony, so I’m good, right?” Not necessarily. As stated, felony convictions for certain crimes, including treason, trafficking, or felony-level drug possession, can result in the confiscation of a valid passport. There’s not a work-around here: the government knows what you did, and they’ll do what they need to to make sure you don’t make that mistake again.
As long as you’re in good standing with the law, and you have a valid passport/were allowed to apply for a passport, you can assume that your travel privileges are intact. Most other countries don’t investigate your criminal record for a visit - they want your sweet American dollars just as badly as you want a glass of wine at the Eiffel Tower.
As long as you don’t commit a crime while abroad, no one in the country you’re visiting will have any idea what your legal background looks like - unless it’s Canada because they might deny you entry if you have a prior DUI. If you’re looking to escape for a few days, and not escape conviction, but not sure if you can, call us here at Palestini Law anytime. We aren’t a travel agency, but we’ll make sure that you’re clear for takeoff before the government thinks you’re trying to take off.
JAMES P. PALESTINI
Originally from Toronto, Canada, James Palestini relocated to Arizona where he received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies with a minor in Criminology from Arizona State University. James then attended law school at Phoenix School of Law where he earned a Juris Doctorate degree. While pursuing his doctorate, James interned at a criminal defense firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. James handled a multitude of criminal cases there, including felony, misdemeanor and criminal traffic matters.