Texas Probation: Early Termination (Early Release)

A lot of people who sign up for lengthy probation periods are under the impression that, once they jump through all the necessary hoops, a judge will let them off the hook for the remainder of the probation. Sometimes this is true, but it’s not always the case.

Article 42.12 Section 20 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure permits individuals to apply for “reduction or termination” of probation as soon as one-third of the probation period has expired. The decision to release a person from probation early is a decision that is in the sole discretion of the judge. This means that a probationer must persuade a judge for early dismissal. Like most people, judges have a pecking order of things they care most about–depending on the judge, a request for early termination can be met with resistance.

The most important step for anyone who wants to be considered for early dismissal is to complete any and all conditions of probation: pay all fines and court costs, pay restitution (if required), complete community service hours, complete any mandatory courses, attend all required counseling, and have a record of punctually attending probation meetings. Failing to fulfill a probation obligation prior to requesting early termination will usually result in a judge denying the request.

Timing is also important. While the statute permits the judge to consider early termination as soon as one-third of the probation period has expired, many judges like to see that a probationer serve at least one-half of his/her probation period. An application denied on the basis of asking too soon is invariably accompanied by a lecture on how probation isn’t supposed to be easy.

For those who are serving probation as part of the Collin County Pre-Trial Diversion Program, early termination may also be an option. Despite the lack of a statute requiring such a procedure, the Collin County District Attorney’s Office has generally followed the same procedures explained in Article 42.12: complete your conditions and they will agree to release you early.

Having the right kind of expectations is important when making decisions in a criminal case. The appropriate expectation when signing up for probation is that you will be serving every minute of it. Nobody can guarantee an early termination–not even the prosecutor. People considering probation should also be wary of certain offenses that are exempted from early termination, including: DWI offenses, offenses requiring registration as a sex offender, and certain other serious felony offenses. When seeking early termination of probation, consult with an attorney about how to present the best case possible.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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