Can I End My Probation Early In Georgia? Good News!

Posted by Megan GroutMar 13, 20240 Comments

Ending Probation
Terminate Probation Early

Can I End My Probation Early In Georgia? Good news!

     If you've been on probation for a while in Georgia, you might be wondering if there is a way to end it early, or whether you are required to wait out the full length of probation. I have good news. Yes, there may be ways for you to end it early or at least improve on it. Below are some things you should think about:

Have You Done Well on Probation?

     The biggest issue that must be considered first is whether you have done well on probation. It is very difficult to get your probation terminated early if you have had new arrests, failed to report regularly, had positive drug test, or other issues with probation. If you have had some problems, I usually counsel my clients to try to go through a stretch of several months at least (or more if your sentence is longer) of doing really well on probation. This will help with arguing to a judge that you have corrected any issues and are no longer in need of supervision.  

Does Your Sentence Have an Early Termination or Behavioral Incentive Date?

     Look at your sentence to see if you already have an early end date set. Sometimes it is written as "early termination date" which means if you complete all your special conditions and have been doing well otherwise, your probation will terminate at the early date, not the later date. For example, it may say 6 years of probation, but also have an early termination date set for 4 years. If you've completed everything by the 4 year date, your probation officer should automatically terminate your probation for you. But it's always a good idea to follow up and confirm it all. 

     Your sentence may also have something called a "Behavioral Incentive Date" which is usually set for three years into your probation. This operates like an early termination date, just like I described above. In either case, most judges will not terminate earlier than the early termination or behavioral incentive date. However, I have been successful in getting probation terminated early than that in some special cases. It is always worth calling a lawyer to see if it's worth trying. If you don't have an early termination or behavioral incentive date in your sentence, keep reading. I'll explain how to go about terminating a regular probation sentence.

How do I Terminate Probation Early?

     If you don't have an early termination date or behavioral incentive date in your sentence, you will need to file a motion with the court, asking the judge to terminate your probation early. You will be making that argument to the same judge who sentenced you in the first place, or their successor. Lawyers are experienced in filing these motions and can help you frame your request is the most persuasive way. The prosecution and the victim can object to you making this request, and can turn the motions hearing into something contentious. So, it is smart to try to get the prosecution and victim (and probation officer) on your side (if possible) before filing the motion. 

What Will the Judge Consider in the Motion To Terminate Probation?

     The judge is going to look at many things, including your time on probation, your special conditions, and your reasons for seeking termination. The judge is also required to consider whether probation is necessary for the ends of justice, the protection of society and your rehabilitation. I'll explain these in a little more details below. 

What Are the Special Conditions In Your Sentence? Are They Completed?

     For many people, probation requires two different sets of conditions. The first are the general conditions that apply to everyone on probation in Georgia. These include things like not breaking the law, avoiding bad habits, reporting to your probation officer regularly, etc.  The second kind of conditions are the "special" conditions in your sentence, meaning the specific ones that were given to you. These include things like community service, maybe taking a class, getting a drug/alcohol evaluation and treatment and paying restitution.

     In most cases, you need to be sure your special conditions are completed entirely before you seek to have your probation terminated early. So, make sure to get them all done as soon as possible. For people who have long term conditions without a specific end date as part of their probation (like ongoing therapy or regular polygraph tests), you may be able to terminate even with those ongoing conditions. You will need to speak to a lawyer about how to best argue that you've done enough and shouldn't be required to keep doing them. 

How Long Have You Been On Probation?

     As a rule of thumb, I generally suggest you don't file to terminate your probation early until you've done at least half of the probation. This is not a specific requirement in the law, just a guideline. You will need to convince a judge that you have learned your lesson and don't need any additional rehabilitation. It is more difficult to convince a judge that you have been rehabilitated and not a danger if they don't have much of a track record to look at. So generally speaking, half your probation is a good place to start in making the argument you've shown them you are on the right track.

Why Do You Want Your Probation Terminated Early?

     Wanting to have your probation terminated because you don't like being on probation is usually not a good enough reason. It is more persuasive if you are able to explain, in addition to showing how well you've been doing, that probation is now holding you back in some un-intended way. Is your probation keeping you from getting a job or promotion that will help you better provide for your family? Are you wanting to move or apply for housing and probation is in the way? If you can demonstrate something like this, it will be much more persuasive with a judge. Talk with a lawyer about your specific situation and what is your best argument about terminating probation.

What If I Can't Get My Probation Terminated Early? What Other Options Do I Have?

     If early termination isn't an option (yet?) or the judge refuses to terminate it, you may still have some options. You can talk to your probation officer about whether you can go on non-reporting status. You can also discuss with your lawyer about whether your probation can be modified to make things easier for you. 

     No matter what your circumstance is, if you feel like you've reached a point where terminating your probation may be an option, you should call a lawyer to discuss it.  You might be very happy you made that call!