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Can You Get Off Probation Early in New York?

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, as of 2018 approximately 230,000 New Yorker’s were behind bars or under criminal justice supervision. Of that number 139,000 – nearly two-thirds – were on probation or parole.  Once deemed as an alternative to jail or prison, probation and parole have become a revolving door back to jail, often for minor technical violations.  Annually in the U.S. more than 350,000 people are “violated” and incarcerated, often for failures that are not a crime for an ordinary citizen. The rules of supervision often contain a complex maze of conditions which can be difficult – if not impossible – to follow.  Worse yet, these conditions can actually suppress a person’s ability to reintegrate fully into the community and live a successful life.

That begs the question – is it possible in New York to get off probation early? Although it is the exception and not the rule, it is absolutely possible to terminate your probation early.  

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

The law in NY sets forth a three-step process for consideration by the Court when granting a request for termination of a sentence of probation. It states in part, “The court shall grant a request for termination of a sentence of probation when, having regard to the conduct and condition of the probationer, the court is of the opinion that:”

  1. the probationer is no longer in need of such guidance, training or other assistance which would otherwise be administered through probation supervision;
  2. the probationer has diligently complied with the terms and conditions of the sentence of probation; and
  3. the termination of the sentence of probation is not adverse to the protection of the public.

WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE?

An attorney will file a Notice of Motion with the Court which supervises the probationer requesting an “Order to Terminate a Sentence of Probation.” Typically, along with the Motion, an attorney will include a Memorandum of Law which provides the judge with historical case law, along with an Attorney’s Affirmation which proves the facts that the probationer is worthy of early termination of probation.  This is a detailed process of fact gathering, legal research, and individual advocacy.

DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY GET OFF PROBATION EARLY?

In a recent case, our firm filed a successful motion for early termination of probation for a client after he completed 5 ½ years of a 10 year term. While his probation officer was supportive of him, this officer told him “no one gets off early.” As attorneys, we work with the law, and the law says otherwise. So we didn’t take no for an answer.

AM I A GOOD CANDIDATE?

One thing is for sure, not everyone is a good candidate. While we can do the legal part, create impressive mitigation packages, and tell a persuasive story to the judge, we can’t do that without the ammunition and the facts. The probationer, and the probationer alone has to put in the work to show themselves worthy of the chance to get off probation early in the eyes of the court.  We can certainly help them create that plan, but in the end, execution is the key.

In our recent case, our client did just that over the course of more than 6 years since his arrest. He started a business which has improved the lives of others, he became a mentor to individuals struggling in their own lives, he completed treatment, he stayed in counseling voluntarily, he got married, bought a house, started a family, diligently followed the rules of supervision, and remained completely crime-free the entire time.  He let his actions do the talking and he did the work. His initiative garnered the support of his employees, friends, family, the community – and ultimately the judge.

CONCLUSION:

While getting off probation early in NY is not easy, it is certainly possible. A wise person would begin by immediately formulating a plan to position themselves for the best possible outcome when the time comes. Many judges want to see the people that they sentence succeed. They recognize that the purpose of the criminal justice system should be about rehabilitation. If you have put in the work, you may be a good candidate to have your probation terminated early in New York.

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