California Penal Code 1203.3 PC - Early Termination of Probation
California Penal Code 1203.3 PC is the law that allows courts to lessen or terminate a defendant's probation ahead of schedule.
This can occur at any time throughout the probationary period. However, it is more commonly seen after the convicted person has shown the ability to adhere to the probation guidelines for at least a year.
In other words, PC 1203.3 PC gives judges the discretion to grant early termination of probation. The court will simultaneously expunge a defendant's record when this occurs ahead of schedule. If it's a felony wobbler case, the judge could reduce it to a misdemeanor.
However, before terminating a defendant's probation early, the judge will ensure that they completed the conditions of their probation, including paying fines or restitution, and they attended court-ordered classes. Further, there must be circumstances that justify early termination of probation.
It's worth noting that while Penal Code 1203.3 PC gives the court legal authority to grant a request for early termination of probation during any point in the probation period, in reality, most judges will require a defendant to complete at least 12 to 18 months of their probation before considering ending their probation early.
Your defense lawyer must file a motion with the court and prosecuting agency at least two days before the requested hearing date. This gives your attorney time to tell the prosecutor why you should be granted early termination of probation and to ask them not to oppose the motion.
However, it should be noted that these requests are granted only if you can show the court good reasons, commonly known as “good cause and reform,” and that it would serve the interest of justice. Let's review this law more closely below.
What Is an Early Termination of Probation?
If a defendant is convicted of a crime, there will usually be a period of probation attached to their sentencing.
During this period, the defendant is closely monitored. The probation guidelines can make daily activities more difficult and delay a return to normalcy.
Early termination of probation is a legal statute that provides the defendant a chance to shorten this period for a good reason.
According to CA Penal Code 1203.3 subsection (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 can, 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 probation period and discharge the person so held.”
In simpler terms, judges have the latitude to terminate probation and even expunge the defendant's criminal record if they feel it is warranted.
What Primary Factors Are Considered?
While these aren't official requirements, the judge typically will not grant early termination of probation to defendants unless they have done the following:
- Completed at least half of the probation period;
- Completed all conditions mandated by the court during sentencing, such as anger-management counseling or court-mandated classes;
- No new accusations or pending cases;
- All court fees, fines, and victim restitution are paid in full;
- Completed all required community service hours;
- Appeared at all meetings with the appointed probation officer.
Even if the convicted person has met these benchmarks, it is not guaranteed that they will be granted early termination. The presiding judge will also take into consideration other factors, such as:
- Behavior throughout the probation period;
- Chances of reoffending;
- Defendant's entire criminal history;
- Danger to self, family, and society;
- Severity of the initial offense committed. A judge may be more lenient on a DUI conviction than a sexual assault, for example;
- Whether probation is causing difficulties finding or sustaining work;
- If the probation's restrictions on travel are creating unnecessary problems for your family.
The prosecutors for the original case may object to early termination, which the judge will also consider. It is essential to have legal representation to ensure the best chance possible is presented to the court.
If you violate your probationary term, the court will hold a probation revocation hearing where the judge will determine if you broke probation and, if so, whether to either reinstate your probation under its original terms, modify the terms to make them harsher, revoke probation and remand you to jail to serve the rest of your sentence.
What Are the Benefits?
Probation is generally preferable to additional jail time, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have its drawbacks. In addition to convenience-related benefits like the freedom to travel, here are a few crucial reasons to attempt an early termination of probation.
Expunged Conviction – The most significant positive aspect associated with early termination is the potential for the offense to be expunged from the defendant's criminal record. Criminal records can cause various problems in a person's life — from failed background checks for employment and housing to custody issues.
Lawyers can file for conviction expungement in tandem with early probation termination. If early termination is granted, an expunged conviction generally follows.
Future Probation Violations - A person on probation must follow the regulations associated with their probation, and any common legal issue could be enhanced due to their probationary status.
Probation violations have a low evidentiary burden, which means that judges can convert probation to incarceration without concrete evidence of guilt. Early probation termination removes the possibility that this scenario could happen.
What Is the Legal Process?
If convicted individuals want to apply for early probation termination, it is highly recommended that they first contact their legal representation.
An experienced lawyer knows early termination standards and will ensure you enter the process with the best opportunity for a successful request.
A hearing will be scheduled, in which the defendant's attorney will present the argument for their release — usually emphasizing good behavior and the litany of factors listed above.
In response, prosecutors will typically present their case for the petition's denial. Having a great legal team will improve the defendant's chances considerably.
If the judge rules against early termination, there could still be opportunities to reapply as the sample size of exemplary behavior becomes larger. If you are seeking to file for early termination of probation, then reach out to our law firm to review the legal options.
Eisner Gorin LLP are criminal defense lawyers based in Los Angeles. You can contact us for a case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form.