When a defendant has successfully completed all the terms of their probation and has otherwise, performed well while on probation, without any probation violations nor suffered any new arrests or convictions while on probation, he/she can petition the court for an early termination of probation (Penal Code section 1203.3(a)). Although there is no specific timeframe in which a defendant must wait before making this request, as a practical matter, such a request should be made when at least half or more of the probationary period has expired.
The motion for such a request should be directed to the court in which the defendant was originally sentenced, even if the judge who imposed the sentence is no longer on the bench or is now retired. The motion must be filed with the court and served on the prosecutor’s office at least 10 days before the hearing date on the motion. This rule is to allow the prosecutor time to respond to the motion; either to object to the request or to inform the court of any discrepancies in the defendant’s performance while on probation.
The motion should be prepared by an experienced attorney, who is familiar with drafting such motions. The attorney will include a statement of facts and most importantly, lay out the compelling reasons why the court should grant the client’s request. A declaration should also be included and signed by the client affirming the reasons set forth in the motion. At the hearing on the motion, a well-prepared attorney should anticipate any objections by the prosecutor so that he/she will be able to overcome those objections, if any. In many cases, the attorney can “sound out” the prosecutor’s views before the motion is even heard on the record.
If a motion to terminate probation early is granted, the judge will sign an order that states that probation is terminated and the court clerk will also be able to prepare a docket of the court minutes. These documents can be provided to potential employers, or to whomever, the client believes such information will have a positive impact. In many cases, clients will seek to have probation terminated early when searching for employment, when requested to do so by a potential employer, or when the client is seeking to enlist in the armed forces of the United States. While early termination of probation can provide a tremendous lift to a client’s chances for a new job opportunity or position, it is important to discuss all the implications with an experienced attorney.