Come on vacation, leave on probation

“Come on Vacation Leave on Probation,” is a concept often Law Enforcement officials across the U.S. usually refers to people visiting vacation hotspots like Las Vegas, Nevada, Key West, and Florida – all notorious for their largely permissive atmosphere.

What is less discussed is how this concept plays out among visitors: those who come on short vacations or business trips, but become entangled with the criminal justice system with serious and often unforeseen consequences. The scenarios are broad: from bar and club fights to driving without a license and shop-lifting. While local residents face some of the same legal consequences, visitors face additional challenges, from how to find bonds, to lacking strong community ties, with many facing deportation when they get arrested.

From my professional experience, one offense that occurs with surprising and alarming frequency is retail theft. In Florida, large, attractive shopping malls with goods beautifully displayed tempt many on vacation. And because most department stores don’t have uniformed security guards, several visitors are duped into believing security is lax. Of course, many of these light-fingered visitors have been caught and have had to suffer through the many consequences.

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The cases I have encountered includes one visitor stealing a $3 bottle of baby powder from a local supermarket and then having to pay thousands in defense fees to resolve the matter.

In another instance, an individual steals an item from a local clothing store costing over the $300.00 grand theft threshold, becoming a felony. This offender was held in home confinement as a condition of bond for many months, unemployed, and had to remain in the U.S. beyond their authorized stay. These crimes of moral turpitude will almost always result in immigration consequences, ranging from a cancellation of a visa, to potential deportation.

For those who resolve their cases and leave on probation, there is the distinct possibility of never being able to return to the U.S. Even if the crime itself does not present a permanent bar to reentry, the failure to physically report to probation upon exit will result in a warrant for arrest. This warrant will never be vacated absent of the person’s presence. Trying to get another visa with an active warrant then creates a “Catch 22” situation.

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Visitors are urged to enjoy their trips and conduct their business without yielding to the temptation of situations that may result in arrests. The legal consequences are often far more severe than they could imagine.

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