Is Early Discharge from Probation Right for Me?

The high prison population in the United States gets lots of attention in the press. Yet the probation population is twice as high as the prison population.

Court supervision is very restrictive, particularly in felonies. Generally, probationers must report at least twice a month. The more time-off requests a person makes to make these appointments, the less patient bosses become. Probationers must also abide by travel and other restrictions, mostly alcohol use and other personal habits. Plus, many people have the feeling that the Sword of Damocles is dangling just above their heads, and if they step out of line, it will fall.

For these reasons alone, it’s probably worth talking to a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney about early discharge from probation. Additionally, there may be other benefits as well.

Eligibility for Early Release

The Code of Criminal Procedure sets out the following minimum qualifications for early release from probation:

  • Satisfactorily complete at least one-third of the term,

  • Pay all fines, restitution, and court costs,

  • Finish all court-ordered classes and counselling, and

  • Not be convicted of a prohibited crime.

That first bullet point is probably the most important one, and it deserves some additional explanation. There is a difference between “satisfactory” completion and “perfect” completion. The defendant’s record does not need to be completely spotless. The judge has discretion as to where to draw the line between “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” completion.

The judge also has complete discretion as to granting or denying the petition for early discharge. But generally, if the defendant meets the minimum qualifications and the defendant can point to any benefit, such as no more risk of job loss due to time-off requests, the judge will grant the request.

Most sex crimes are prohibited offenses. So is DWI and a few other serious felonies, like murder and aggravated robbery.

The rules are a bit different with regard to deferred adjudication. For example, the judge can theoretically grant an early termination petition at any time. But most Tarrant County judges like to see at least a third of the term completed.

Early Discharge and Judicial Clemency

This proceeding is separate from early termination, but it is usually only available in early termination cases. Judicial clemency is not exactly like record sealing, but it is close.

The judge signs an order setting aside the verdict of guilt and allowing the defendant to withdraw the plea of guilty or no contest. As a result, if a job application asks related questions, the defendant can honestly answer that s/he has never been convicted of a crime and never pleaded guilty or no contest to a crime. The records may be admissible in subsequent judicial proceedings and in a few other environments.

Early discharge from probation often sets the defendant free indeed. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.