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How to get off probation early in Michigan - Early Discharge Tips and Tricks

If you or someone you care about is currently on probation, you may want to explore the possibility of being discharged at an earlier date than scheduled. I work with many clients who contact me and inquire about the possibility. Here are a few general thoughts followed by what I call a "post active" plan for success.

Most people are placed on probation in 6 month segments. I see people sentenced to 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and the maximum for a misdemeanor (24 months). It's rare that a judge goes shorter than 6 months, and recommendations are RARELY anything not divisible by 3.

Common reasons why clients want to be off probation are the following:

  • I don't like being on probation

  • The testing is time consuming/expensive

  • I am unable to travel in the manner necessary for work

  • I want to move away from Michigan

Let's start with the last one. In my experience, a judge and probation offer will not get in the way of someone moving out of Michigan, especially for a job opportunity for the client or a spouse. The goal of probation is to put the person in a position to be successful going forward and avoid further incidents with the law. This is the easiest goal to accomplish, and it may involve a discharge from probation, or permission to move and report via phone or mail.

The testing is consuming or expensive is not really a reason to be taken off probation alone; a judge may agree to lighten the load or get rid of scheduled testing altogether, but it may not include a discharge from probation especially if the original charge is a DUI and the testing is for alcohol. A judge usually favors the conservative approach of "society is better off with supervision of the defendant".

Travel needs vary for different people, but I work with many clients who travel often for work, and sometimes on short notice. There are some courts here in Michigan where each travel requests must be approved by the judge with rules in place about "notice of travel". Some clients may need to travel with less than 24 hours notice, and the client ends up not being able to fulfill their work obligations without the ability to travel. A judge for this reason may agree to a less stringent review process or blanket permission to travel, but this alone is not a reason to be off probation early.

The first reason "I don't like being on probation" is actually the best reason to petition the judge to be discharged from probation. We don't phrase the request in those words, but it's the most honest approach to the situation.

Being on probation is hard, it's expensive and it's time consuming. Assuming that the client has fulfilled every obligation in a timely manner, no violations occurred and sufficient time has passed, a motion for early discharge may be ripe for review and a successful result. You may ask, "what's a sufficient time?" - an aggressive view of that is half the time already served (so 6 months of 12 months), but that motion is likely to fail, but it may have a benefit.

A judge may deny the motion after half served, but this may act as a "check-up" with the judge agreeing everything is going well, but to "keep up the good work", which means we can ask to come back in 2-3 months for an 8 or 9 month review. If a judge agrees to come back in a few months, it's very likely the motion will be granted on that return date.

Going to court twice with your lawyer may cost more money, but it's a great strategy; the other approach is to wait for a more reasonable period of time, which is 75 percent of the probation term served, which would be 9 or 10 months of a 12 month sentence.

Instead of saying "probation sucks get me off", we file based on MERIT. Sure we may mention the testing is time consuming, expensive, the travel issue is getting in the way of things, but those cannot be the reason for early discharge. What I mean by MERIT is: All terms and conditions have been met including fines and costs paid, and if the person were to be discharged today, there is nothing left to complete.

I usually reach out to the probation officer ahead of time and gain agreement or at least a vote of confidence that the probation officer will not object to our request. It's nearly impossible to win this request if the probation officer is not in agreement; that puts the judge in a situation where he/she knows very little about the client and their progress, and the person who meets with them monthly and knows them best is saying "they need more time" - a judge is very unlikely to overrule that opinion.

Assuming the probation officer is not objecting, we build a "post active" plan to present as part of our motion. MERIT alone may work; you accomplished the 12 month goal of probation in 9 months, but what assurances does the judge actually have at the 9 month mark that the original 12 is still not the best fit for the defendant? It's certainly the safer bet for a judge to just stick to their guns and supervise someone rather than remove all supervision.

In order to get over this hurdle, we put in place a "post active plan" which typically involves the client sitting down with a counselor or a third party that can evaluate their progress; a DUI, drug, domestic violence, retail fraud all have different goals of probation. If a third party professional can sit down and provide a vote of confidence in a letter or report it really helps win the motion with the judge. A judge can rely on that opinion in their decision.

We can rely on the non-objection from probation and the support of a neutral third party who can speak to the mental, emotional and physical state of the client to show that they are now fit to go forward with their own supervision plan, and it's in the best interest of the client and society to make that decision.

We can rely on the non-objection from probation and the support of a neutral third party who can speak to the mental, emotional and physical state of the client to show that they are now fit to go forward with their own supervision plan, and it's in the best interest of the client and society to make that decision.

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