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Early Termination of Probation: Some Rules of Thumb for When You Can And When You Can't

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Everybody wants to terminate their probation early. And fortunately, Florida law allows a judge to terminate probation or community control early. However, what is permitted and what is actual are two very different things. Allow me to draw on my decade of criminal law experience to tell you when you should and - perhaps more importantly - when you should not ask your judge for early termination.

1) You are on probation for a very serious offense. This may include murder, sexual battery, armed robbery, DUI manslaughter, just to name a few. If you are on probation for any one of these serious felonies then early termination is unlikely. A judge will want to see you finish out your entire probation term if you were sentenced for a serious crime. This is especially true if you were sentenced to prison and your probationary term began upon your release.

2) You have a prior criminal record. Judges are more likely to give early termination to first-time offenders than anyone else. If you have a serious criminal record, the judge will not want to reward you.

3) You violated your probation. If you violated your probation at any point during your term, consider early termination out of the question. Don't even bother. You're wasting your time and more importantly - your money.

4) You haven't completed your conditions. You must have your conditions complete before you ask for early termination. If you still owe court costs, costs of supervision, or are in arrears, the judge may waive fees (in most cases court costs are not a condition of probation). If you owe community service hours, drug treatment, or classes, wait until you have finished those conditions before you move for early termination. As well, if you have unpaid restitution, make sure the restitution is paid in full before you move for early termination.

5) No early termination was an express condition of your plea agreement. If that's the case, then don't ask. The judge will honor the plea.

So it would seem that your best chance for early termination comes if you are on probation for a non-violent offense, you have no priors, no violations, you are in compliance with all terms and conditions of your probation, and you are not expressly forbidden from seeking early termination. In my experience, that assessment is correct.

However, each case is unique so it is wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney when deciding whether to move for early termination of probation.

Eric Matheny is a Miami and Broward criminal defense attorney. He can be reached now.