[1] The best starting point to terminate probation would be to gather as much supporting evidence in an organized fashion that provide a diligent judge to review your specific set of circumstances.

[2] The second-best thing to do would be to seek an attorney experienced in drafting, serving, and filing petitions to terminate probation with a proven track record you can rely on.  Read more below…

Many clients are moments away from getting the job they wanted and suddenly realize they still have an active criminal case.  Without even giving it much thought before applying for the job, now the panic sets in to hurry up and terminate probation.

This is normal.

The solution however, is not as simple as one would think.

The Road to Probation & How to End it

In a typical criminal case, a client will accept a deal that minimizes the damage to the charges filed against them.  Doing so, they will agree to be on probation from anywhere between 1 to five years—3 being the most common.

Drafting Petition for Termination ProbationHowever, due to the prevalence of background checks, many people are careful in how they navigate the job market while they face pending criminal charges or are on active probation.  It’s no wonder then, that being on active probation is almost equivalent to having a pending criminal case because it hasn’t yet resolved (at least not in favor of the accused).

So when it comes time for someone to prepare for an interview, being on probation will almost certainly guarantee that the employer will find the recent conviction and potentially ask about one’s probation status.

Therefore, client will quickly search for a solution to increase their chances of getting that job.  The most obvious solution comes in the form of the “Motion to Terminate Probation.”  Many courthouses will often have different names for the same thing: Early Termination of Probation, Request to Terminate Probation, Petition to Reduce Probationary Term, or a §1203.3 Petition.

Finally, something else to keep in mind is that once a court grants a motion to terminate probation, the client is then immediately eligible for an expungement–which will effectively reverse the conviction and remove the “guilty” plea and enter a “Not guilty” plea in its place.

Applying for a Motion For Early Termination of Probation

Almost uniformly, California courts will allow probationers to petition the assigned court (commonly referred to as Post-Conviction Calendars) for early termination of probation.  There are unfortunately no standard forms for these petitions and many clients must rely on their attorneys to draft, serve, and file the appropriate pleadings.  Therefore, it’s highly advised that you seek an experienced attorney in these efforts.

The format for stating your legal rights and the facts that support your petition is often called “pleadings”, and usually takes the form of 28-line format legal form that allows you to make the proper factual background, legal authority, legal analysis, and supporting documentation.

The Mechanics Behind the Motion for Early Termination

As stated above, the authority given to sitting judges and commissioners to determine of someone may have their probation terminated early is enumerated under California Penal Code §1203.3.  It is within this code section that gives judges:

…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. – §1203.3a

The code continues to provide the required notice given to the District Attorney’s office, the clerk of the court, the reasons or arguments required to give the judge enough reasons to consider the request, and the exceptions or exclusions of certain cases from consideration.

Supporting Evidence (AKA: “How to Win Your Motion to Terminate Probation”)

Terminate Probation with Supporting DocumentsThe reader is advised to not be fooled by what seems as straightforward language in the code.  Every county, courthouse, and specific court room has a very complex policy on what constitutes appropriate grants of early termination.

To better understand why this is the case, a short thought experiment may be in order.

Consider every person who comes to court that pleads guilty is placed on 3 years probation.  Technically, under §1203.3, each and every one of those individuals is technically eligible to ask the court the next day to terminate their probation because it would be the just thing to do.

It wouldn’t take long to realize that there was be no reason for probation to exist if these petitions were granted so often.

So, there must be a good public policy behind granting some petitions and denying others.  The short answer to this question is as complex as how many criminal justice agencies view certain crimes, defendants, and procedures in their respective jurisdictions.

But there is something one can use as a rule-of-thumb when looking to terminate probation early.  The following are circumstances or factors that may rank higher in one courtroom versus another—but they have been proven to be important enough to consider no matter who applies for this kind of post-conviction relief:

[1] Show Compelling Circumstances

Without question, a person’s sentence and probation terms cannot predict every possible scenario for someone at the time of their guilty plea.  Therefore, a significant change in one’s personal or professional circumstances can bring a probation term into serious reconsideration.  Some examples that have certainly caught the attention of many judges can be: a sudden loss of employment, denial of licensure from a state agency, sudden complications to one’s health, issues of family obligations or dependency, deployment to active combat for members of the armed forces, extreme hardship to ones living situation, etc.

[2] Actual Prejudice Stemming from Probationary Status

Many probationers can carry on their lives relatively the same as before they were granted probation. However, some individuals truly feel the wrath of collateral consequences in the form of sudden barriers to employment, housing, licensure, and similar consequences to a conviction.  Providing the court with credible supporting evidence to show this unexpected hardship will be considered more seriously by the reviewing justice and give the petitioner a real chance at getting this criminal record behind them.

[3] Professional Placement and/or Licensure

As mentioned above, a person with a professional license or certification may find that the collateral consequences that stem from a conviction will cause inequitable outcomes.

Currently, there are over 500 specific direct consequences in California that will have a negative effect on business licensure and participation that includes hundreds of professional services including: banking, finance, insurance, securities, commodities, real estate, gaming, lottery, automobile services, fishing, mental health services, adult care, public health benefits, government contracting, volunteering, teaching or substitution services, public employment, handling of hazardous waste/chemicals, municipal permits/entitlements, social security, mining rights, child care, public employment, massage or holistic medicine, emergency services, fundraising/charity/non-profit services, mortgage loan origination, tobacco sales/licensing, alcohol permits, optometry, veterinary services, accounting, locksmith, contracting (residential and commercial), cosmetology/barbering, private security, architecture, and many others beyond the scope of this article.

If you found this article helpful in your journey, please feel free to leave some comments below.  Otherwise, if you have additional questions or would like to discuss your case with an attorney experienced in filing successful petitions to terminate probation early, contact me here.

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About the Author: Bart Kaspero

Bart Kaspero is an experienced criminal defense and regulatory attorney who has focused on using technology and the law in bringing privacy to criminal records. His research has been published in several legal journals and his unique background has helped a broad spectrum of clients. He has provided legal training to lawyers across the US on how to navigate complex criminal record legislation and how to effectively provide privacy to those with past arrests, charges, and convictions. His innovative methods have earned him a top position of authority on the subject of criminal record privacy as well as trust within the criminal data supply chain.