3 Steps To Get Off Probation Early in California
Probation got you down? Get off that paperwork!
Satisfy All Terms of Your Grant of ProbationThe first thing to do to get off probation early is to satisfy all terms of your probation that you can. That means, complete any court-ordered jail time or alternative to custody program, such as picking up trash on the freeway (Sheriff's Work Alternative Program). Also, complete any court-ordered classes such as theft class, drunk driving prevention class, batterer's class, etc. And, submit proof of your completion to the Court. Next, pay off all your fines and fees that the Court ordered as part of your probation, if you have the ability to do so. All that should be left is the time you have left on probation. For example, let's say you plead to a theft conviction, were ordered to serve 30 days in county jail through the alternative to custody program, pay standard fines and fees, and obey all laws for 3 years on summary/informal probation. Once you've done the 30 days, and paid the fines and fees, you've completed Step 1 because all that is left is the 3 years of summary probation.
File For Early Termination of Probation Under Penal Code Section 1203.3California Penal Code section 1203.3 states, in part: "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, Step 2 is to file a noticed motion to the Court requesting that under Section 1203.3, that it successfully terminate your probation early. In your filing, show that you have completed all the terms of your probation (Step 1) except the time on probation. That shows your "good conduct and reform." You should also include letters of support from family members, friends, co-workers, volunteer organizations, employers, coaches, church and faith organizations, etc. That also shows your "good conduct and reform." Next, explain why being on probation is keeping you down. Perhaps you can't get a job or a promotion because you are on probation. Perhaps you can't travel to your child's out-of-state graduation and other activities because you are on probation. Perhaps your probation makes it impossible for you to effectuate some other fundamental right like an ongoing child custody battle in your divorce proceedings. This shows the "ends of justice" will be served by terminating your probation early. That way, the Judge will understand why you need its help.
Argue Your Face Off At The HearingHere's the bad news. The prosecutor will almost always object to your motion for early termination of probation. Why? They are mean. What will they argue? They will argue that they "negotiated" the plea deal and "bargained for" 3 years of probation. So, if the Judge grants your motion, they will lose "the benefit of their bargain." Seems like a good argument, right? Wrong. But if you don't anticipate this argument, Judges often buy that argument. Here's why that argument is weak. The "benefit of the bargain" argument stems from the idea that plea bargains are based on contract law; but, plea bargains are not pure contracts between two equal parties. There is a huge power difference between the parties. On the one hand, you have the Prosecutor backed by the power of the entire State of California; on the other hand, you have little ol' you, backed by an individual lawyer or by yourself. Next, the Judge had to approve of the plea in the first place, so both you and the Prosecutor were on notice that the Judge might get involved again later (and, here, terminate probation early). Last, if the Prosecutor is so concerned about 3 years of probation being a term of the plea that cannot be modified, why didn't they bargain for "3 years of probation and no early termination of probation?" They didn't, in fact, bargain for what they are now seeking to prevent. Got it? Good! And, good luck!