You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask: Getting off Regular Probation Early

 

Let’s say you have found yourself on probation in Texas for the next several months or years, depending on the offense.  The good news is that in many cases a Texas judge has the authority to let you off probation early, which is properly known as early termination of probation.  This blog post will be discussing getting off of regular probation (also known as “formal” or “straight” probation) early, while a future blog post will discuss getting off of deferred adjudication probation early as the rules for deferred adjudication are slightly different.

Starting with the basics, a Texas judge can terminate a regular probation after the probationer has served one-third of their sentence or two years, whichever is less.  Also, to qualify for early termination of probation a defendant must not be delinquent in the payment of fines, court costs, fees, and restitution (more on this in a bit), must have successfully completed any required classes, evaluations or programs, and must be in compliance with the full slate of probation conditions.

Those are the statutory minimums.  But to go beyond the minimum, here are some tips.  Although you can ask to get off of probation as long as you are only “not delinquent” on your fines, fees and costs, it helps if you have paid your entire balance off and you owe the court nothing but the standard monthly probation fee of $60.00 (which you only pay for the months you are actually on probation, so you can’t be expected to “pay them early”).  Furthermore, it helps if you have your community service hours fully knocked out as well.  Lastly, ask yourself honestly if you have been a good probationer: have I given the probation department trouble, do I make my appointments and payments on time, do I test clean for drugs or alcohol when they test me?  When you ask to get off of probation early, for good or for bad, the probation department will have its say about you to the judge: make sure they say something good!

Texas judges have very wide latitude on whether or not to grant an early termination of probation.  Judges will typically weigh factors such as the seriousness of the original offense, the criminal history of the defendant, the opinions of the prosecutor and probation department, and any other considerations that particular judge deems important.

Article 42A.701(g) highlights the type of offenses which are not eligible to be terminated early.  These include probations resulting from convictions for DWI or other intoxication-related offenses, felonies involving a deadly weapon finding, offenses requiring Chapter 62 registration as a Sex Offender, and others.  Please note that certain judges may have their own “pet” offenses for which they personally feel that early termination is never warranted, such as Cruelty to Animals for example.

But if you are on probation for an offense that is not on the “forbidden list” and you have been following the rules and paying what you owe, you may want to consider asking to get off early.  Like the title of the article says, “You’ll never know unless you ask”!

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