Penal Code § 1203.3 PC gives judges in California the discretion to grant early termination of probation. If probation is terminated ahead of schedule, the court will often expunge your criminal record at the same time.
The language of the statute reads:
1203.3. (a) 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. The court also has the authority at any time during the term of mandatory supervision pursuant to subparagraph (B) of paragraph (5) of subdivision (h) of Section 1170 to revoke, modify, or change the conditions of the court’s order suspending the execution of the concluding portion of the supervised person’s term.
Before terminating your probation early, the judge will want to ensure that:
- You have successfully completed the conditions of your probation (such as fines, classes or restitution),
- There are circumstances that justify early termination of probation.
Good reasons for a motion to terminate probation early include:
- keeping you from securing gainful employment,
- preventing you from advancing at work, or
- restricting necessary travel.
Penal Code 1203.3 PC 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 you complete at least 12 to 18 months of your probation before they will seriously consider the motion for early termination of probation.
Below, our California criminal defense attorneys explain the process to terminate probation early by answering the following questions:
- 1. How do I bring a motion for early termination of probation?
- 2. What are the benefits?
- 3. How soon can I request an early termination?
- 4. How does the court decide whether to grant the motion?
- 5. Can I get the case expunged at the same time?
- 6. What happens if I break my probation in California?
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
California Penal Code 1203.3 PC authorizes a judge to grant your request to secure early termination of your 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
- explain why you are a good candidate for early termination of probation, and
- 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 for early termination of probation 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 early probation termination hearing. Though–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.
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, you will be able to look for a job without having the conviction held against you by potential employers–among other benefits of an expungement.6
Having your record expunged after early termination of probation also enables you to apply for additional relief, where appropriate. Depending on the circumstances, and the crime of which you were committed, you may be able to
- have your information removed from Megan’s List,7
- obtain relief from Penal Code 290 PC lifetime duty to register as a sex crime offender,8 and/or
- restore your California gun rights.9
The second major benefit of obtaining 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 that you did, in fact, commit the transgression. Avoiding the risk of having to defend yourself against a probation violation is a very good reason to seek an early end to your probation under PC 1203.3.
Penal Code 1203.3 PC gives judges the discretion to terminate probation “at any time during the term of probation.”10 Though the “unwritten rule” is that 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 formal probation sentence.
Of course, this is just a general rule for eligibility. Your circumstances may justify an earlier termination of probation under PC 1203.3 or require a later one, depending on when the judge believes that “justice has been served.”
For more discussion, see our article on How long does early termination of probation take?
According to Penal Code 1203.3 PC, the court may terminate your probation when your “good conduct and reform” justify doing so.
So what exactly does “good conduct and reform” mean? As San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi11 explains,
“Basically, ‘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 usually 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 sessions, 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 offenses (“staying out of trouble”) and that you demonstrate remorse for your actions.
The judge deciding your motion for early probation termination will also weigh and consider additional circumstances, which may include:
- the severity of the conduct that led to the conviction,
- your criminal history,
- the district attorney’s opinion, and
- whether being on probation is causing you 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,
- traveling when you need to do so for work or to maintain family relationships,
- qualifying for a loan, or
- achieving or obtaining any other type of meaningful benefit.
The judge may also consider input from your probation officers and the prosecuting attorneys from the county district attorney’s office or the attorney general’s office.
Most likely, yes. You are eligible for expungement of your criminal record when you are no longer on probation, as long as you are not
- currently charged with another criminal offense,
- on probation for another offense,
- serving a sentence for another criminal offense, or
- the case disposition prohibits early termination of probation
When our California expungement lawyers file a motion for 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.
If you violate your probationary terms in California, the court will hold a probation revocation hearing. This is like a mini-trial where the judge will determine if you did indeed break probation, and if so, whether to either:
- reinstate your probation under its original terms,
- modify your probationary terms to make them harsher, or
- revoke your probation and remand you to jail or prison to serve the rest of your sentence.
For additional help…
If you or a loved one is in need of help with terminating probation early, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys invite you to contact our criminal defense lawyers at Shouse Law Group for legal advice.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers 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. For cases in Colorado, see our page on early termination of probation in Colorado criminal cases.
- California Penal Code section 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…”)
- See same. See also People v. Son, (2020, Court of Appeal of California, Fifth Appellate District) 49 Cal. App. 5th 565. See also People v. Lucero, (2019, Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District) 41 Cal. App. 5th 370.
- 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.
- See California Penal Code 1203.3, endnote 1, above.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 1203.4 PC – California’s expungement law.
- 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, your information will be removed from the Megan’s Law site.
- 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.
- See California Penal Code 1203.4 PC – Expungements, endnote 6, above. See also California Penal Code 4852.17 PC — Governor’s Pardon. See also California Penal Code 4854 PC — Firearms; restoration of rights; exceptions.
- See California Penal Code 1203.3 PC — Early Termination of Probation, endnote 1, above.
- San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients seeking post-conviction relief like early termination of probation throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Hemet, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow, Palm Springs and Victorville.