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Can I Get Off Probation Early? PC 1203.3

When you are facing possible jail time or probation, the choice may seem easy. Jail can mean a shorter sentence but at least you are not locked up. Probation may seem simple, with just checking in every once in a while and staying in the clear. However, being on probation is no picnic. Probation can be a burden hanging over your head for 3 years or more. 

Even if you get 2 or 3 years of probation, you may be able to get probation lifted early. With the help of a skilled East Bay California defense attorney, you can file a motion to terminate probation before your time is up. Ending probation early can be a real weight lifted off your shoulders. If you want to get off probation early in California, contact East Bay criminal defense attorney Lynn Gorelick.

California Law to Revoke Probation

The simple way to think about probation is the courts offer that you don't have to spend time in jail but you have to follow certain rules. Under California Penal Code § 1203, “probation means the suspension of the imposition or execution of a sentence and the order of conditional and revocable release in the community under the supervision of a probation officer.“

Conditions of probation can be general or be tailored specifically to the defendant and the criminal offense. For example, most probation terms require the defendant to not commit another crime during probation. For a domestic violence offense, probation may require attending a batterer's intervention program. A drunk driving arrest may require going to DUI school as part of probation. 

For most misdemeanors in California, probation is 1 year. In contrast, a jail sentence for misdemeanors in California is generally limited to up to one year. Probation may be twice as long but, in exchange, the defendant serves out that time in the community. This allows someone to continue working, going to school, or living with their family instead of spending time in jail. 

Probation is generally ordered for a period of years. However, there is a way to have probation terminated early. This means that the defendant will be free of the restrictions of probation and can get back to their normal life without checking in with the court and being able to travel freely as they could before the arrest. 

California Penal Code PC 1203.3

The law that provides for early terminating probation is California Penal Code CA PC 1203.3. Under California law, “The court has the authority at any time during the term of probation to revoke, modify, or change its order of suspension of imposition or execution of sentence.”

“The court may at any time when the ends of justice will be subserved thereby, and when the good conduct and reform of the person so held on probation shall warrant it, terminate the period of probation, and discharge the person held.”

Waiting Out the Full Term of Probation

After serving out a year of probation, most probationers simply continue on the path, knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are some risks of serving out the full term of probation when you don't have to. Remember that at any time you violate a term of probation, you can immediately be sentenced to jail. 

People who have never faced probation don't know how restrictive it can be. The terms of probation can severely limit your freedoms. For example, some common examples of probationary terms and conditions for a conviction in California include: 

  • Weekly or monthly visits to your probation officer
  • Community service
  • Random drug testing
  • Random police searches
  • Avoiding alcohol or drugs
  • Avoiding certain people
  • Staying away from certain places
  • Counseling and therapy sessions
  • GPS monitoring

On top of everything, someone on probation is expected to pay for the costs of probation. Probation fees can vary by the terms of probation, requirements, and even by county. According to the State of California, probation fees over a 3 year period can range from about $2,000 to $18,000. The fees alone make it worth getting off probation as early as you can to save some serious money. 

If you don't file a motion to get out of probation early, you will generally have to wait out the full probationary term. However, there are ways to get off early.  

How to Terminate Probation Early in California

Judges have the discretion to terminate probation before the full term. Your attorney can file a petition for termination of probation. This is a formal request with the court to review the case and determine whether the “ends of justice” will be served. If the court finds good conduct and reform of the person on probation, and no other red flags, the court can discharge the person from the period of probation.

Ask your East Bay criminal defense lawyer about filing a petition to terminate probation. In considering the petition, the court may look at several factors, including: 

  • Reasons that termination is justified.
  • All restitution obligations are fulfilled.
  • Whether probation is formal or informal. 
  • The underlying criminal offense.
  • Prior criminal history. 
  • Participation in probationary programs like DUI school or domestic violence counseling.
  • Expression of responsibility and remorse. 
  • Sobriety and substance abuse counseling.
  • Employment or education. 
  • Hardships of probation. 

When Can I Terminate Probation in California

Generally, judges will not terminate probation until all the requirements of probation have been met. This means paying all fees, completing any programs or counseling, and paying victim restitution. However, even if you do all of this within a couple of months of probation, it may be too early for the court to consider your petition. You may have to wait until half of the term is served before a court will consider your case. 

For example, a driver is arrested for drunk driving in Oakland and gets 2-years probation in August 2022. Terms of probation include DUI school, ignition interlock device, community service, and court costs and fees. The driver finishes DUI school, community service, has an IID, and pays all fees by November 2022. If the driver applies for probation termination, the judge may deny their request. However, if the driver's lawyer files a petition in 2023, the judge may be more likely to agree and terminate probation.  

East Bay Lawyer for Ending Probation Early

An experienced East Bay criminal defense lawyer can help you get off probation early. Your lawyer can also give you legal advice for what you can do to speed up probation and demonstrate that ending probation is in the community's best interests. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of criminal defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Oakland, Alameda County, and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local diversion programs, prosecutors, and judges involved in cases just like yours. 

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