The 5 Best Guidelines for Early Termination of Probation in California

early termination of probationWhen seeking early termination of probation, there are 5 main guidelines you want to consider:

  1. Reasons for Obtaining Early Termination of Probation
  2. Legal Grounds
  3. Eligibility
  4. The Process, and
  5. Whether to Hire an Attorney

As an expungement attorney who has handled early termination of probation and expungement motions throughout Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, in this article I discuss each of these guidelines in order to help you better understand your situation and to help you make a decision on the next step in your process.

#1 Reasons for Obtaining Early Termination of Probation

As an expungement attorney who has brought many motions for early termination of probation, I have seen a number of common reasons my clients seek early termination:

  • you want to enlist in the military;
  • you want to apply for a job;
  • you desire to get an expunged misdemeanor or felony expungement but cannot do so until your probation is terminated;
  • you want to travel with fewer restrictions.

No matter your reason, my job as an attorney is to help my clients find early release of probation in order to move forward with their lives more productively and happily.

#2 Legal Grounds for Early Termination of Probation

The legal grounds for early termination of probation are found in Penal Code 1203.3, which allows a judge “…at any time during the term of probation to revoke, modify, or change its order of suspension or execution of sentence.”

In non-legal terms this means: the judge can terminate your probation early!

However, just because the judge has the power to do something in your case, this does not mean the judge will always exercise that power to your benefit.

In the next step I discuss your “eligibility” for early termination of probation.

#3 Eligibility for Early Termination of Probation

Even though every case is technically eligible for early termination of probation under Penal Code 1203.3 as discussed above, judges are not in a habit of nonchalantly or cavalierly granting your motion for early termination of probation.

The reason is this: the District Attorney or City Attorney (whichever entity prosecuted your case) will almost always argue against your request for early termination of probation.

They complain to the judge that they (the prosecutor) would not have entered into a plea negotiation with you in the first place if you were not going to receive the entire period of probation as you agreed in your plea negotiation.

In the case where you didn’t voluntarily plead guilty or no contest (i.e. you were found guilty at trial), the prosecutor will try to bring up factors that do not lend itself toward terminating probation early, such as the egregiousness of your offense or your past criminal conduct.

It is the judge’s job to make a decision about your case, and the judge can only follow the law and apply the facts of your situation to the law.

When ruling on a PC 1203.3 motion, the judge can consider:

  • What is in the interests of justice?
  • Have you shown good conduct?
  • Have you shown reform/ rehabilitation?

Interests of Justice

What is “in the interests of justice” comes down to the basic facts of your situation.

Were you ordered to pay restitution to a victim, and have you paid that yet?

Would the court’s continued monitoring of your behavior help protect you and/ or society from repeating a crime?

Do you have past criminal convictions for the same offense for which you are now serving probation?

These questions, and others like it, are questions the judge will ask when deciding how to rule on your case.

Good Conduct

Good conduct means you have taken action to show you are willing to comply with the court’s order. The best way you can show this is by completing all requirements of probation, such as paying all fines and completing all court-ordered classes (e.g. anger management, drug and/ or alcohol classes, community service, etc.).

Unless you have completed all terms of probation, other than the time requirement (which is the reason you’re requesting early termination of probation in the first place), then the judge in most cases will not even consider granting your motion.

Reform/ Rehabilitation

The court will also look to whether you have shown reform or rehabilitation as a guideline on whether to grant you early termination of probation.

Reform and rehabilitation can take many different forms, but may include things like:

  • Counseling or other treatment taken on your own initiative and not because the court ordered you to do it;
  • Volunteer work/ giving back;
  • Sobriety;
  • Clean criminal record since your offense took place;
  • Letters of reference.

If you have picked up new charges or violated your probation, the court is not going to grant an early termination. On the contrary, if your behavior indicates you are a productive member of society then the court will weigh this in your favor.

Other Factors the Court Will Consider

The court will also consider how much time of your probationary period you have already completed. If you have not completed at least half of your probationary period, then the judge will often deny your motion.

Some judges will grant your motion if you have not completed half of your probation, and they certainly have the power to do so, as discussed above under Penal Code 1203.3.

However, only when there are several extenuating circumstances will the court usually permit you an early termination of probation in the case where you have completed less than half of your probationary term.

#4 The Process for Obtaining Early Termination of Probation

The process for early termination of probation comes down to three basic steps: (1) Draft, (2) File, and (3) Argue your motion.

Draft Your Motion

A “motion” is a formal legal request in court. When you file a motion with the court, you are asking the judge to make a decision over a legal matter affecting you.

Legal motions have to be properly drafted, or can easily be rejected by the court. This includes citing accurate and up to date law, clearly organizing the pertinent facts for the judge to evaluate, and explaining to the court why the law is in your favor based on the facts presented.

File Your Motion

Once your motion is properly drafted, and you’ve demonstrated to the Court why early termination of your probation should be granted, you next have to “file” your motion.

Filing your motion means you have to lodge the motion officially with court records. The court clerk will stamp the motion with the time and date you filed it, which may be relevant for procedural reasons when the judge is evaluating the merits of your motion.

Sometimes, the court clerk will reject the motion altogether, because you did not adhere to rules of criminal procedure or adhere to local court rules.

Part of filing your motion also includes serving a copy of the motion on either the District Attorney or the City Attorney – the prosecutorial agency responsible for prosecuting your case.

Argue Your Motion

After your motion has been properly drafted and filed, the court clerk will assign you a court date.

On your court date, you are supposed to appear at the time indicated (usually 8:30am) and argue your motion in front of the judge and against the prosecutor.

If you plan on bringing any additional evidence, make sure to bring a copy for the prosecutor and the judge. Your evidence may be admitted or denied by the court depending on what it is and what it is offered to prove.

You will have an opportunity to present your point of view as to why you believe the law is in your favor and why the court should grant an early termination of probation. Be prepared for the prosecutor to present a rebuttal to your argument. The prosecutor in most cases will seek to oppose your motion and will be prepared to argue against your point of view.

The judge, after hearing both sides and reviewing the law and the argument, will make a decision whether to grant or deny your motion.

#5 Whether to Hire an Attorney

If the process described above sounds arduous, intimidating, or confusing, you may want to hire an attorney to help with your early termination of probation.

In the case where you are on probation for a misdemeanor offense, your attorney can go to court in your place. When you are on probation for a felony, you will have to accompany your attorney in court.

An attorney can represent you at all stages of the process. As expungement lawyers, we handle early termination of probation and expungement motions from A-Z, including all three steps discussed above.

When you don’t have the time or knowledge to do it yourself, an attorney by your side can lighten the load significantly and ensure greater chances of success in court.

If you are on probation in Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego, we may be able to help.

For a free consultation with me personally, text “earlyterm” (no spaces) to 44222 or click the green button.

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