Probation can restrict you in many ways. It may prevent you from traveling, moving to find work or be close to family, or in some cases, even holding a job at all. It also interferes with living a normal life and getting everything back on course after your conviction.
In California, however, you have the right to end your probation early in some circumstances. The best way to get started is to talk to a lawyer. Typically, to receive an early probation termination, a defendant must show that they have been following their probation terms and have a pressing need to end probation early.
What Is Probation and How Is It Supposed to Work in California?
Probation is part of the sentence you are given when convicted. It can be used one of two ways: as a sentence served instead of jail time (as long as you don’t break your probation conditions), or as an additional penalty served after completing your jail time
Either way, probation consists of a period of time in which you are “proving” yourself and your ability to follow the law. It typically lasts several years, and it may be formal (supervised) or informal (unsupervised). There are generally specific conditions you have to meet, including not committing any more crimes during the probation period.
However, most probation sentences come with much more complex conditions. Some of these conditions may be hard to meet or may even cost you significant money. If you are ordered to attend mandatory classroom courses, you will have to pay for them yourself.
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Penalties for Breaking Probation
If you violate your probation, you may face additional penalties. When you break the terms of your probation, you are putting yourself at serious risk. There are a wide variety of potential consequences that you could face, and many factors are taken into consideration before your punishment is decided upon by the court.
The court has wide discretion when it comes to choosing the penalties for a probation violation. The court can impose any punishments from the original trial that were suspended in favor of probation. However, the court can also impose new punishments, including:
- An extended probationary period
- A short stint in jail
The most serious consequence is the revocation of probation altogether. Revocation means that the offender will instead serve out the remainder of their sentence in jail. This means that, unfortunately, probation often serves as a hook that pulls people back into the criminal justice system, even when they are trying to live an honest life.
It is important to be aware of the fact that a probation violation must be both significant and intentional for revocation to occur. If you accidentally miss a mandatory course, or community service, due to forces beyond your control, your probation should not be revoked.
What Is the Difference Between Formal and Informal Probation?
Formal and informal probation are two different forms of probation with radically different rules.
Informal probation is usually used for misdemeanor crimes. It is “unsupervised,” in that there is no probation officer you have to check in with regularly. However, that does not make it easy to complete. Instead, the burden of completing all of your probation requirements is on you. You must keep track of all dates, obligations, and rules yourself.
This may include drug or alcohol treatment, mandatory classes, installing a breathalyzer in your car, wearing an ankle bracelet, house arrest, community service, or completing specific programs. You have to document meeting each requirement and show the court that you completed it by a specific date.
Formal probation is usually used in felony cases. Not all felonies carry this form of probation, but violent offenses (and sex crimes) typically do. This is also called “supervised” probation because, in most cases, you are assigned a probation officer whom you must report to at regular, scheduled times. Your probation officer will check on:
- Whether you are looking for work (or currently working) and how it’s going
- What activities you have been up to
- Whether you are meeting obligations for any court-ordered programs
Additionally, formal probation comes with onerous restrictions. You are subject to random drug testing. You cannot move or travel out of state without permission from your officer. When changing jobs, you must inform your PO immediately. You might be ordered not to associate with certain people.
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California Penal Code 1203.3 PC
The ability of the court to change the terms of probation in California falls under California PC 1203.3. This penal code allows the court to revoke, modify, change, or terminate probation.
If evidence is presented to the court of a violation of probation terms, the court is likely to revoke, extend, or otherwise modify the probation with harsher consequences for the defendant. California Penal Code 1203.3 gives the court the power to adjust the terms of the probation to ensure justice is served.
PC 1203.3 also allows the court to reward good behavior by terminating or shortening the length of a probation period. This can be done as long as all conditions of probation have been met and there is a legitimate reason for granting the probation termination.
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How Can I End My Probation Early?
Both forms of probation can be expensive, frustrating, and interfere with your life. If you’d like to end your probation, you can request that the judge terminate the probation early.
Technically, you can do this at any time after being sentenced. However, a judge will be unlikely to grant your request unless you have completed at least half of your probationary period. That way, you can prove you are not re-offending and are living a stable, law-abiding life. Otherwise, the judge is likely to turn down your request.
When you apply for early termination, understand that your request is decided entirely at the judge’s discretion. The judge has the ability to modify or end your probation, but only if doing so will serve justice. To apply, you or your attorney must file a motion with the court. The steps are:
- File a motion for early termination with the court where you were convicted/sentenced
- Give the prosecutor at least two days’ notice before the hearing
- Prepare supporting evidence
What Kind of Evidence Do I Need to End My Probation Early?
Supporting evidence could include a wide variety of things, such as:
- Proof you have not re-offended or committed any new crimes
- Proof you have no other unresolved criminal matters
- Documentation that you have completed all court-ordered requirements of your probation
- Documentation that you have paid restitution to the victims (if restitution was ordered)
It can also help to have proof that you are employed, active in the community, and living a responsible life. Letters from clergy, employers, community leaders, or even neighbors strongly help your case.
Valid Reasons for Early Probation Termination
Generally, in addition to showing that you have been meeting the requirements of your probation, you must also demonstrate that your probation is interfering with an important aspect of your life.
One of the most common reasons for the request of early probation termination and expungement of a criminal record in California is that the probation is interfering with the defendant’s ability to find a job or receive a promotion. Another common reason given for requesting early termination is that the defendant needs to move for one reason or another.
Early termination requests are most likely to succeed if you have not had any probation violations, but you can apply either way. You will simply need to show that you have straightened out and are working to be a law-abiding member of society.
Benefits of Early Probation Termination
The clearest benefit of terminating your probation is that as soon as you are no longer on probation, you can also get your record expunged. Once your record has been expunged, you will regain many of the rights that you may have lost while you had a conviction on your record.
The other biggest benefit of terminating your probation is that you are no longer at risk of committing a probation violation. When not on probation, if you are arrested for a crime, you have the right to a jury trial and will not serve a prison sentence unless convicted. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to demonstrate that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, with a probation violation, an arrest is enough to land you in prison, even if you are not convicted of the crime. You are not entitled to a jury trial, and the standard of proof is much lower. The prosecution must simply show that you more likely than not violated the terms of your probation.
Talk to a California Probation Lawyer for Free
Ending your probation is an important step toward freedom and moving on with your life. Don’t let probation requirements drag on for years. The Simmrin Law Group can help you prepare the strongest application possible, and argue your case for you before the judge. Fill out our online contact form or give us a call and get your free consultation today.