Early Termination of Probation in California Criminal Cases

California Penal Code 1203.3 PC allows a judge to terminate a defendant's probation ahead of schedule.1 If the judge grants an early termination of probation, the court will often expunge the criminal record and (in felony wobbler , cases) reduce the felony to a misdemeanor at the same time.

Before terminating your probation early, the judge will want to ensure that

  1. you have successfully completed the terms of your probation (such as fines, classes or restitution),

    and

  2. there are circumstances that justify early termination.

Valid reasons may include (but are not limited to) the fact that your probation is

  • keeping you from securing gainful employment,
  • preventing you from advancing at work, or
  • restricting necessary travel.

Penal Code 1203.3 gives the court the discretion to grant a request for early termination of probation at any time during the probation period.2 In practice, however,  most judges want to see people complete at least 12 to 18 months of the probation before they will seriously consider the motion.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys3 explain the process of obtaining an early termination of probation by answering the following questions:

1. How Do I Obtain an Early Termination of Probation?
2. What are the Benefits of an Early Termination of Probation?
3. How Soon Can I Request an Early Termination of Probation?
4. How Does the Court Decide Whether to Grant Early Termination of Probation?
5. If the Court Grants My Motion, Can I Also Have the Case Expunged Right Then?

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Expunging Your Criminal Record; Probation Violations; How to Get Removed from Megan's List; Ending Penal Code 290 PC Registration as a Sex Offender; Restoring California Gun Rights; Misdemeanor Charges; and Felony Charges.

1. How Do I Obtain an Early Termination
of Probation?

California Penal Code 1203.3 PC authorizes a judge to grant a defendant's request to secure an early termination of his/her probation.4

In order to obtain this type of relief, your California criminal defense attorney must file a motion with the court and prosecuting agency at least two days prior to the date of the requested hearing.5

Additionally, your attorney should speak to the prosecutor about your case.  This gives your lawyer an opportunity to

  1. explain why you are a good candidate for early termination of probation, and
  2. ask the prosecutor to support your motion (or at least not to oppose it).

At the time of the hearing, your attorney will ask the judge to grant your motion by explaining that your "good conduct and reform" justify the request and that terminating your probation would best serve the interests of justice.

In some instances, your lawyer will be able to appear on your behalf, and you will not be required to attend the hearing.  But...depending on the circumstances...it may be in your best interest to be present.  This is a strategy that you should discuss with your attorney prior to filing the motion.

2. What are the Benefits of an Early Termination
of Probation?

There are two major benefits to securing an early termination of probation.

The first is that the earlier you terminate your probation, the earlier you can expunge your criminal record.  Once you obtain an expungement, the conviction is removed from your criminal record and...with certain limited exceptions...you will honestly be able to state that you were never convicted of the offense.6

Having your record expunged also enables you to apply for additional relief, where appropriate.  Depending on the circumstances...and the crime of which you were convicted...you may be able to

The second major benefit of obtaining an early termination of probation is that it eliminates the risk that you could be charged with a probation violation.  If you get arrested for any crime while you're on probation, the court can sentence you to jail or prison for violating your probation...regardless of whether you are even convicted of the new crime!

Probation violations do not entitle you to a jury trial.  The judge simply decides if there is more evidence than not...a legal standard known as a preponderance of the evidence...that you did, in fact, commit the transgression.

3. How Soon Can I Request an Early Termination
of Probation?

Penal Code 1203.3 PC gives judges the discretion to terminate probation "at any time during the term of probation".10 Yet despite this authority, judges will not typically terminate probation until you complete at least one year of a
misdemeanor probation sentence or at least 18 months of a felony probation sentence.

Of course, this is just a general rule. Your circumstances may justify an earlier termination or require a later one, which leads to the next section...

4. How Does the Court Decide Whether to Grant Early Termination of Probation?

According to Penal Code 1203.3 PC, "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 so held".

So what exactly does "good conduct and reform" mean?  As San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi11 explains, "Essentially 'good conduct and reform' means that you are not a risk to the public and that you've learned from your mistake and are now moving in a positive direction."

This means that you have successfully fulfilled all the terms of your probation, such as

  • paying all fines,
  • finishing court-ordered classes, such as domestic violence classes or
    DUI school,
  • paying all victim restitution,
  • completing your community service,
  • completing counseling, and
  • satisfying any other requirements that the court imposed in connection with your probation sentence.

It also means that you have not been arrested for any other offense(s) and that you demonstrate remorse for your actions.

The judge will also weigh and consider additional circumstances.  These circumstances include (but are not limited to):

  • the severity of the conduct that led to the conviction,
  • your criminal history,
  • the prosecutor's opinion, and
  • whether being on probation is causing you a hardship.

The types of hardships that may persuade the judge to grant your motion for early termination of probation may include situations where your probation is preventing you from

  • obtaining gainful employment or receiving a promotion,
  • travelling which you must do for work or to maintain family relationships,
  • qualifying for a loan, or
  • achieving or obtaining any other type of meaningful benefit.
5. If the Court Grants My Motion, Can I Also Have the Case Expunged Right Then?

Most likely, yes.  Once you are no longer on probation...and are you not

  • currently charged with another criminal offense,
  • on probation for another offense, or
  • serving a sentence for another criminal offense...

you are eligible for expungement. When our California expungement lawyers file a motion for an early termination of probation, we typically petition the court for an expungement (and in felony wobbler cases, to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor) at the same time.

If the court agrees to terminate your probation early, it will generally reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and expunge your criminal record all at the same time.

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is in need of help with terminating probation early and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

For more information about early termination of probation in Nevada, go to our page on early termination of probation in Nevada.

Legal References:

1California Penal Code 1203.3 PC -- Early Termination of Probation -- Probation; revocation, modification or termination and discharge; conditions; revocation at time of escape; hearing.  ("(a) The court shall have 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 so held. (b) The exercise of the court's authority in subdivision (a) to revoke, modify, change, or terminate probation [known as an early termination of probation] is subject to the following: (1) Before any sentence or term or condition of probation is modified, a hearing shall be held in open court before the judge. The prosecuting attorney shall be given a two-day written notice and an opportunity to be heard on the matter, except that, as to modifying or terminating a protective order in a case involving domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code, the prosecuting attorney shall be given a five-day written notice and an opportunity to be heard. (A) If the sentence or term or condition of probation is modified pursuant to this section, the judge shall state the reasons for that modification on the record. (B) As used in this section, modification of sentence shall include reducing a felony to a misdemeanor. (2) No order shall be made without written notice first given by the court or the clerk thereof to the proper probation officer of the intention to revoke, modify, or change its order. (3) In all cases, if the court has not seen fit to revoke the order of probation and impose sentence or pronounce judgment, the defendant shall at the end of the term of probation or any extension thereof, be by the court discharged subject to the provisions of these sections. (4) The court may modify the time and manner of the term of probation for purposes of measuring the timely payment of restitution obligations or the good conduct and reform of the defendant while on probation. The court shall not modify the dollar amount of the restitution obligations due to the good conduct and reform of the defendant, absent compelling and extraordinary reasons, nor shall the court limit the ability of payees to enforce the obligations in the manner of judgments in civil actions. (5) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the court from modifying the dollar amount of a restitution order pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1202.4 at any time during the term of the probation...")

2 See same.

3 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

4 See California Penal Code 1203.3 PC -- Early Termination of Probation, endnote 1, above.

5 See same.

6California Penal Code 1203.4 PC - California's expungement law.  ("(a) In any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation, or in any other case in which a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted the relief available under this section [that is, to clear his/her California criminal record], the defendant shall, at any time after the termination of the period of probation, if he or she is not then serving a sentence for any offense, on probation for any offense, or charged with the commission of any offense, be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted, except as provided in Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code.")

7 Once you are no longer a registered sex offender, California law does not allow the Department of Justice to continue posting your information on Megan's Law.  As a result, if you qualify for and receive either (1) a certificate of rehabilitation, or (2) a California Governor's pardon...and are therefore relieved from the duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290...your information will be removed from the Megan's Law site.

8 California Penal Code 290.5 PC -- Pardon or California certificate of rehabilitation - ways to help clear a California criminal record; relief from duty to register. ("(a)(1) A person required to register under Section 290 for an offense not listed in paragraph (2), upon obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3, shall be relieved of any further duty to register under Section 290 if he or she is not in custody, on parole, or on probation." (2) A person required to register under Section 290, upon obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3, shall not be relieved of the duty to register under Section 290, or of the duty to register under Section 290 for any offense subject to that section of which he or she is convicted in the future, if his or her conviction is for one of the following offenses: (A) committed with the intent to violate Section 261, 286, 288, 288a, or 289. (B) Section 220, except assault to commit mayhem. (C), provided that the offense is a felony. (D) Paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), or (6) of subdivision (a) of. (E) Section 264.1. (F) Section 266, provided that the offense is a felony. (G) Section 266c, provided that the offense is a felony. (H) Section 266j. (I) Section 267. (J) Section 269. (K) Paragraph (1) of subdivision (b), provided that the offense is a felony. (L) Paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of, or subdivision (c), (d), (f), (g), (i), (j), or (k) of, Section 286. (M) Section 288 , (N) Paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 288a, provided that the offense is a felony. (O) Paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of, or subdivision (c), (d), (f), (g), (i), (j), or (k) of Section 288a. (P) Section 288.5. (Q) Subdivision (a), (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), or (h) of Section 289, provided that the offense is a felony. (R) Subdivision (i) or (j) of Section 289. (S) Section 647.6. (T) The attempted commission of any of the offenses specified in this paragraph. (U) The statutory predecessor of any of the offenses specified in this paragraph. (V) Any offense which, if committed or attempted in this state, would have been punishable as one or more of the offenses specified in this paragraph.")

9 See California Penal Code 1203.4 PC - Expungements, endnote 6, above.

See also California Penal Code 4852.17 PC -- Governor's Pardon ("Whenever a person is granted a full and unconditional pardon by the Governor, based upon a certificate of rehabilitation, the pardon shall entitle the person to exercise thereafter all civil and political rights of citizenship, including but not limited to: (1) the right to vote; (2) the right to own, possess, and keep any type of firearm that may lawfully be owned and possessed by other citizens; except that this right shall not be restored, and Sections 12001 and 29800 shall apply, if the person was ever convicted of a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon.")

See also California Penal Code 4854 PC -- Firearms; restoration of rights; exceptions. ("In the granting of a pardon to a person, the Governor may provide that the person is entitled to exercise the right to own, possess and keep any type of firearm that may lawfully be owned and possessed by other citizens; except that this right shall not be restored, and Sections 12001 and 29800 shall apply, if the person was ever convicted of a felony involving the use of a dangerous weapon.")

10 See California Penal Code 1203.3 PC -- Early Termination of Probation, endnote 1, above.

11 San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Hemet, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow, Palm Springs and Victorville.

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