Can You Travel When Under House Arrest?

Travel while under house arrest is greatly restricted and monitored.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated July 13, 2022

Just as you can't travel when confined to jail, you can't typically travel while on house arrest. Any exceptions to this general rule must be court-approved. Common exceptions would be to allow travel to and from work or school, court-ordered treatment, and medical appointments.

What Is House Arrest?

"House arrest" is really a misnomer—being confined to one's residence is not done when someone is arrested. Instead, it's an alternative to sitting in jail awaiting trial or to a sentence for a crime. Instead of sitting in jail or prison, the defendant is ordered to remain at their residence for a prolonged period of time, usually subject to electronic monitoring and other restrictions.

Where Can the Defendant Go While Under House Arrest?

House arrest—also referred to as home detention or confinement—is typically monitored through the use of a GPS device that is attached to the defendant, usually around the ankle. The signals are monitored; if the wearer ventures too far afield, the local police are alerted.

The defendant's ability to leave the home, including when, how far, for what purpose, and for how long, will depend on the court's orders. Some authority may be given to probation officers to set certain travel rules for house arrest.

The court order should specify where the defendant must be when under house arrest and any travel exceptions. For instance, the judge might restrict "house" arrest to the interior of the house or extend it outside to the property boundaries. Travel allowances will generally be to and from designated places or a certain number of miles. Permission to leave the area or state is not likely. A defendant should read the order carefully with their attorney and probation officer to make sure they understand what's permitted and what's considered a violation.

What Are Typical Travel Restrictions of House Arrest?

Conditions of house arrest and travel restrictions will vary from state to state and defendant to defendant. They can also differ depending on whether the defendant has been convicted or is awaiting trial.

Sentencing Alternative or Probation

If a defendant was convicted and received house arrest as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence, that defendant is still serving a sentence. Some judges treat house arrest similar to incarceration with no travel and no visitors being the rule. Other times, the judge may limit travel to:

  • going to and from work
  • attending religious services once a week
  • going to court-ordered treatments, and
  • getting groceries and necessities once or twice a week.

A defendant typically needs to seek permission from the court or a probation officer to travel for another purpose, such as to attend a family funeral.

Pretrial Defendants

Defendants awaiting trial might have more flexibility to travel because they are still innocent at this stage. That said, the court still needs that person to show up for court dates, so travel restrictions will be in place. The court will weigh factors, such as the defendant's criminal history, past record of skipping court dates, ties to the community, and employment in the community.

What Happens If the Defendant Violates House Arrest Rules?

Judges will not look kindly upon a defendant who violates conditions of house arrest, especially by prohibited travel. Receiving house arrest provides defendants with certain advantages they don't get when sitting in jail or prison. If a judge took a chance on the defendant and the defendant violates the rule, the judge can revoke bail, probation, or parole and send the defendant back to jail or prison. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant might have also committed another crime, such as escape from custody, and face additional charges.

Getting Help

You shouldn't do anything to jeopardize your status while under house arrest. Doing so could expose you to additional criminal sanctions and penalties. If you are uncertain as to the rules of your house arrest, or if you need to be able to leave your house for any reason not authorized by the terms of your confinement, you should consult with an experienced attorney who can help you to understand your rights and get the necessary permissions to travel.

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