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How can a criminal record impact your ability to travel?

Sometimes a criminal record can haunt you after you've served jail time, paid fines and even gotten off probation. For example, if you plan to travel abroad, depending on what offense you were convicted of and what countries you want to enter, there could be a problem.

In most cases, Americans are able to obtain a U.S. passport if they have a criminal record. The exceptions involve people with drug-related convictions. For example, the U.S. Department of State is prohibited under federal law from issuing passports to those who have a felony conviction for carrying drugs to another country.

The State Department has more discretion when it comes to issuing passports to people with other drug convictions on their records. You may be denied a passport if your conviction didn't involve international transportation of drugs, even if it involved misdemeanor rather than felony charges. However, something like a single conviction for possession of an illegal drug shouldn't prevent you from obtaining a passport.

Even if you can obtain a passport, you may not necessarily be able to travel freely. Every country has its own restrictions regarding visitors from the U.S. with criminal records.

Canada can be particularly strict regarding entry for people who have been convicted of even relatively minor offenses. For example, under Canadian law, anyone with a DUI charge can potentially be denied entry. Even if you pleaded guilty, but the charges were dismissed or the case didn't go to trial, if the Canadian Government believes that you committed an offense that would be illegal in that country, it can deny you entry.

If you travel abroad regularly (or even occasionally) for business, vacations or to visit family members, it's important to know how that will be impacted by any criminal record you have. The website for the State Department has information on passport and visa requirements as well as individual countries' entry restrictions. Your Florida criminal defense attorney can likely provide you with information as well based on your specific record.

Source: USA Today, "Traveling With a Criminal Record," Teo Spengler, accessed Dec. 20, 2017

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