If you are on probation after a conviction, the biggest focus you might have is getting back to your life and away from probation. For those currently serving probation in Texas, the law requires an early termination review at the half-way point in your sentence. However, do not be fooled into thinking that nothing bad can come from such a hearing. Defendants showing up to these review hearings without a lawyer at their side can face unnecessary stress, and undesired results.
While most individuals expect to serve the full term of their probation, that does not need to happen. In Texas, it is possible to early terminate your probation, thus releasing you from further reporting, testing, and other obligations. How can this happen you may ask? Early termination can occur in one of two ways:
1) the defendant files a petition seeking to early terminate; or
2) the statutorily mandated fifty-percent time frame review occurs.
While Texas law requires a court to review your probation sentence at the fifty-percent mark, you can apply for early termination at an earlier date. Once you’ve completed one-third of your probation sentence or more than two years – whichever is shorter- you can apply for an early termination hearing, but it doesn’t mean you’ll receive early termination, or even be granted a court hearing for that matter. It is important to review your eligibility for early termination and assess the likelihood that a court would entertain such a motion before seeking such a remedy.
If you decide that you want to pursue early termination before the fifty-percent mark, you typically file a motion in the court where they were convicted seeking such relief. While your petition will contain language as to why early termination should occur, some jurisdictions require the defendant to write a letter with clear details and outline the reasons why you feel you qualify for early termination. It is important to remember that just because you file the petition seeking early termination, that does not mean that the court will grant a hearing. Some courts will grant a hearing no matter what, others will make you wait until the half-way point. Also, keep in mind that any hearing is in front of the court/judge only, there is no jury deciding the question of early termination.
While every case is different, some common factors examined by the courts focus on whether or not you have paid all fines and restitution owed, whether you’ve completed all counseling or class requirements and whether you completed your community service hours.
Additionally, courts typically ask questions about whether or not the defendant has sought and gained employment, and if so, whether this employment was maintained. Did the defendant go back to school or complete specialized training? How about volunteer work? Inquiries identical or similar to these will be made during an early termination hearing to determine whether the defendant has made a real means of mending their life during the probation period.
While this is how the procedure plays out during a court hearing when both sides have an attorney, defendants who attend the court hearing without an attorney present sometimes don’t experience this same environment. Some recent hearings where the defendants did NOT have their own lawyer resulted in the Defendant being interrogated about previous crimes and not about the progress achieved during their probation period. The focus was all about the defendant’s history, not about how they had changed their ways. While it’s not required to have a lawyer by your side during these hearings, showing up without one can mean the defendant is subject to not having their rights appropriately represented.
Without adequate legal representation at these hearings, defendants and their progress during probationary periods may not be accurately portrayed to the courts. If you are preparing for an early termination hearing, facing criminal charges or need vigorous defense, contact Williamson County Criminal Defense Attorney, Todd Ver Weire, for a free consultation today.