Moving Out of State While On Probation

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We have previously written about the California probation system. We explained the difference between formal and informal probation and stressed the importance of complying with all terms of a probation order. A probationer can wind up paying additional fines and possibly serving jail time for what are seemingly minor infractions, such as not showing up for a scheduled meeting with your probation officer.

In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 60% of California probation officers had caseloads that exceeded limits imposed by department policy. In many instances, the additional burden included violent offenders deemed to be “high risk” and therefore in need of more intensive supervision. Although probationers are required to keep the probation authorities informed of their current addresses, aware of the probationer’s whereabouts.

One nearly universal condition of both formal and informal probation in California is a requirement to remain in California until your probationary period is over. Violating this condition is grounds for revocation of probation.

The Interstate Compact

Until the 1990s, there was no consistent framework for monitoring the interstate movements of violent offenders on probation. Of course, some moved without notifying authorities that they had left the state, and they were at low risk of being apprehended, even if they reoffended in the new state. Until then, when home state authorities eventually became aware of the move, there was no way to determine where the probationer had gone. These individuals therefore never appear on the “radar” of the new state unless and until they commit a new offense in the receiving jurisdiction.

The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (“the Commission”) was created in an effort to improve communication and cooperation between probation authorities across state lines. The Commission seeks to maintain supervision of probationers through the web-based Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS). All fifty US. States and three territories are signatories of the Interstate Compact under which the Commission was formed. According to the Commission’s website, in 2016 ICOTS was used to process over 90,000 transfer requests.

The Transfer Request Process

The Commission has established procedures governing the evaluation and processing of requests for the transfer of an adult probationer from one state to another while maintaining continuous supervision.

A transfer requires agreement by both the home, or “sending” and receiving (“transferee”) states. transfer. Unfortunately, for those probationers unfamiliar with it, the process can be confusing and frustrating. Here are some basic things to remember.

Not all probationers must obtain approval through ICOTS. However, a transfer request must be submitted if the probationer:

‒ Is on felony probation, or

‒ Is on misdemeanor probation and

‒ The probation (whether formal or informal) is a year or longer; or

‒ The related offense


‒ Involved actual or threatened physical or psychological harm

‒ Involved the use or possession of a firearm;

‒ Was a second or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of drugs or                                              alcohol; or

‒ Was a sexual offense that required registration as a sex offender in the sending state.

It’s important to understand that for purposes of determining whether an ICOTS application is required, the focus is on the probationer’s actual conduct; the actual charge may not be relevant. For example, if the probationer is involved in a fight and pleads guilty to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace, the question is whether in the altercation the probationer caused or threatened physical or psychological harm. The home state probation officer is generally responsible for making this determination.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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