My ex-son-in-law insists that he cannot fly from California to Ohio to visit his children because he is banned from flying due to an arrest about 3 years ago. He is a U.S. citizen and has lived in California all his life. Can people with minor offenses be stopped at airports in the U.S. because of this?

  • 14
    You might get a more detailed legal analysis at Law.
    – phoog
    Nov 7, 2018 at 13:12
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    I just want to clarify does CA = California, not Canada or Central America? It seems to be so Nov 7, 2018 at 15:02
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    @axsvl77 that's a good question. I think "across the U.S." in the title can be taken as a clear indication that "CA" here means California.
    – phoog
    Nov 7, 2018 at 15:22
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    @axsvl77 Yeah, CA being both the state code for California and the country code for Canada does lead to some amusing situations. There's an Ontario in California, too, so I occasionally receive packages shipped from "Ontario, CA, USA," which makes it look like the U.S. annexed Canada.
    – reirab
    Nov 8, 2018 at 4:02
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    @ESR and he says 'well those people on the internet are wrong, who do you trust, me or some internet randos?'. Now what? Still can't force him to fly.
    – AakashM
    Nov 8, 2018 at 8:56

3 Answers 3


There are a couple of possibilities:

  1. This person received a DUI or other infraction which resulted in their driver’s license being revoked, which makes it harder to check in for a flight. However, they can apply for a State ID or even a passport for identification purposes if they so choose.

  2. They are on a Do-Not-Fly list. This would have to either be because they are thought to be terrorists or have the same name as one. They can petition to be removed.

  3. The conditions of their bail or parole require them to remain in the same city or county or state. This limits more than flying so would also preclude leaving by car or bus or train. This type of restriction is quite common. It’s also time-delimited so you should be able to ask when this bail- or parole-restriction ends — and travel is often possible with prior permission from the court or parole officer(as @David notes).

  4. A variation of #3 is that they have an outstanding warrant in either their origin airport locale, destination locale, or at the federal level and are afraid that once they present at the airport, they will be arrested. The TSA does not actually check for outstanding warrants as part of normal practice, but the traveler may nonetheless be afraid of that possibility.

  5. There may be a restraining order against this individual, perhaps from their former spouse that would make visiting their children difficult, however usually these allow for a third party (for example, grandparents) handoff of kids.

  6. They may have a no-trespass order from an airline or an airport but that usually doesn’t preclude going to another airline or airport.

  7. This may all be just an excuse not to see their own child for their own reasons.

My guess is that it is item #3 (or #7).

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    Might companies put people on #2 for offences short of terrorism? Such as the case of an airplane forced to make extra landing to remove unruly passenger from the plane?
    – gerrit
    Nov 7, 2018 at 14:27
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    @gerrit +1 it’s a possibility but being banned (for example) from Delta wouldn’t mean you couldn’t fly Southwest. I was trying to think of something that would get you banned from all airlines.
    – RoboKaren
    Nov 7, 2018 at 14:28
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    @gerrit the terrorist no fly list is maintained by the government. Companies cannot put people on it. But they can have their own lists based on facts such as the one you describe.
    – phoog
    Nov 7, 2018 at 14:56
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    As the OP is the parent of the former spouse, I'm guessing he/she would know if it's the fifth possibility. Nov 7, 2018 at 16:31
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    The restriction listed as possibility #3 is often that the subject cannot travel out of state unless permission is first obtained from the parole or probation officer. And I must add that it's entirely possible that this individual doesn't want to travel, and uses his years-old arrest as a pretext. Nov 7, 2018 at 16:51

Technically speaking, no. An arrest is not a conviction and simply being arrested cannot have that kind of punishment. If he was arrested AND convicted, then yes, it is possible that as either part of his punishment or as part of the conditions of his parole, he is not able to fly. It is also possible, if he is still pending trial, that he may not be allowed to travel that far away.

  • 5
    The title says the person in question has a criminal record therefore I think it’s safe to say they were arrested and convicted. As such the first part of this answer is being overly pedantic (and that’s coming from a very pedantic person).
    – Notts90
    Nov 8, 2018 at 7:35
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    @Notts90 I was basing that on the text of the question rather than the title.
    – Kevin
    Nov 8, 2018 at 12:12
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    Far more likely that he has had some part of his sentence suspended or paroled, and as a condition of that, he is not allowed to leave the state without good reason and/or some sort of supervision. He could fly to Sacramento, but not Guam or Ohio. Nov 8, 2018 at 16:17
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    @Kevin the text in the question was ambiguous, the title was not. Why did you decide to go with the question text? This answer would be improved without the arrest vs conviction part, because we know he WAS convicted (he has a record)
    – user79730
    Nov 8, 2018 at 21:51
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    @Harper I'm rather in favor of the hypothesis that the deadbeat ex-son-in-law is falsely claiming to be unable to travel because he wants to avoid the perceived burden of flying halfway across the country to see his kids.
    – phoog
    Nov 9, 2018 at 6:51

I have traveled out of the country and in the country multiple times with not only someone who has been arrested but with someone who was convicted of manufacturing mushrooms with intent to distribute. They have 2 felonies and are not on probation or parole. So, he is either not telling you the entire story, is just outright lying to you, or is ignorant in this matter.

I suggest to you to call his bluff and tell him you spoke with a criminal lawyer (Someone at work, a friend, a neighbor whatever) and they said there is no reason you can not fly if you are not on a do not fly list, probation, or parole. See what his reponse is, back him into a corner on the issue.

Illegal immigrants can still fly within the USA and tey do not get caught. All you need is an ID and an airline ticket that matches that ID. Well, you also need the will to go. But who am I... just another ignorant person on the internet maybe.

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