California law allows an individual who is on probation to return to court after their sentencing and request that the court terminate their probation early.[i] There are several steps people can take to increase their chances of success in these petitions for early termination of probation.
California law provides that “the court may at any time when the ends of justice will be served 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,” and the US Supreme Court in Morrissey v. Brewer held that the exercise of discretion will be informed by an accurate knowledge of the [probationer’s] behavior.[ii]
Proving that the interest of justice will be served is an intimidating and confusing burden of proof for most people on probation. However, it is not as complicated as it may sound. It simply means the individual needs to show that there is no legitimate reason for them to remain on probation any longer, or; even better, that keeping them on probation for longer than necessary without good cause would be against the interest of justice.
The purpose of probation in California is to keep an individual under court supervision in order for the court to ensure they are successfully rehabilitated. Despite popular belief, probation is not given for purposes of punishment. Therefore, if a person on probation can show that they are already rehabilitated, or that being released early from probation will accelerate the rehabilitation process, the court, under the interest of justice standard, should therefore release that individual early from probation.
A good example of a situation in which a person has sufficient cause to successfully demonstrate rehabilitation to the court is as follows:
The probationer was convicted of being under the influence of a controlled substance and sentenced to four years of probation. After a period of time following their sentencing (during which they remain law abiding and successfully comply with all other terms of probation), the probationer returns to court and shows both proof of regular attendance at substance abuse classes and other evidence that he or she will never intends to do drugs again.
A good example of a situation in which a person has sufficient cause to successfully demonstrate to the court that remaining on probation will hinder their rehabilitation process is as follows:
The probationer was convicted of petty theft and sentenced to three years of probation. After a year of probation (during which time the individual remained law abiding and successfully complied with all other terms of their probation), the probationer receives a job offer that requires that he/she be released from court supervision and have his/her record expunged prior to starting work. In this case, the judge may find that the probationer will be much more likely to successfully become rehabilitated if they are employed than if they remain unemployed.
A probationer who plans on petitioning the court for early termination early should plan on providing evidence of rehabilitation so that he or she can show that the interest of justice would be served by allowing the early termination. The below items are a starting point to proving rehabilitation:
– Successful compliance with all terms of probation
– Letters of recommendation from others that know you in personal/professional capacities that discuss how you have changed for the better since the conviction
– Testimony from the probationer that explains how and why he or she has changed for the better since the conviction
– Proof of enrollment in school or job training
– Proof of a substantial amount volunteer work
– Proof of completing drug/alcohol or substance abuse classes (if the offense was drug or alcohol related)
– Copies of job applications
– Copies of denied job applications, especially if it can be shown that the denial was because of either the conviction or being on probation. Even a list of places that did not offer you a job would be beneficial.
Having your probation terminated early is a smart thing to do for many reasons, including the fact that a person can then have their record expunged once probation is complete. Knowing what the standard is, what must be proved, and what types of evidence can help make those arguments are the first steps in preparing to ask the court to terminate your probation early.