Typically, when somebody is put on probation for a DUI case, it can range from anywhere from three years to five years. Most of the time when I handle DUI cases in LA County, my clients are put on a minimum of three years of probation. The probation and how it works, also depends on whether they are put on formal or informal probation. Informal probation usually has to do with misdemeanor cases and that does not require the person to report to a probation officer, but instead will just have to do whatever they’re supposed to and a lot of times the judges will have them come back and forth to court to make sure they do things like their alcohol program, pay their fine and various other terms and conditions that the judge places upon them. Formal probation is obviously more stringent, and you typically have to report to a probation officer and they’re going to keep much tighter guidelines on you. A lot of times in DUI cases you can be put on formal probation and be ordered not to drink any alcohol, do an alcohol program. You can be ordered to be tested by the probation department to make sure you’re not using any illegal substances. There’s a whole host of things that the judge can make you do if you’re placed on formal probation. In the end, when it comes right down to it – whether you’re placed on formal or informal probation – has to do with a lot of different factors. One of the biggest ones is how your attorney is able to negotiate for you and get you the best possible resolution for your case.
A lot of things that people are concerned about is if they violate their probation what can happen to them. Probation violations are pretty much controlled by the judge that you’re on probation to. When you end up taking your plea in your case, the judge is going to tell you, okay you’re now on probation. Part of the terms and conditions of your probation are obey all laws. So, that means if you break a law then you can violate your probation and then you’d be looking at up to the maximum of whatever charges you pled to carry. The judge will also give you certain terms and conditions and will tell you if you don’t do what the judge tells you to do or you omit to do something you were told to do, then you will violate your probation and will be looking at potential jail time and other punishments that the judge is able to give you. Usually, the judges are pretty reasonable and will give you some flexibility if you need more time to complete your alcohol program or if you need some more time to pay money that’s owed to the court, they will give you that time and they will be reasonable. It’s when they see that you’re not doing anything on the case and you’re basically just ignoring the court’s orders and making a bunch of excuses up that they will punish you for that, violate your probation and then make it more difficult in the end to get your case dismissed if that’s something that you’re interested in.
The answer to that question is that technically yes, your DUI probation in Los Angeles County can be terminated early. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge who you are on probation to, whether your probation is terminated early. Obviously, before you have any chance to get it terminated early, you would have to have no violations and have done everything that the court ordered you to do. The biggest roadblock that I see in trying to get a DUI probation terminated early, is that the prosecutors will argue two things. One, that the benefit of the bargain was that you were supposed to be on probation for three years, and so why should you be able to somehow get your probation earlier if that’s the deal that was made between the defense attorney and the prosecutor. The other argument is that the legislature has mandated that if you’re convicted of a DUI, a first offense for example, then you must do three years of probation. So, the judge is basically violating what the legislative intent was if they terminate your probation early. So, a lot of judges will listen to these arguments and so, yeah, the prosecutor’s right and I’m not terminating your probation early.
The few times that I actually see probation terminated early in a DUI case is when you have a really good reason to do it. An example might be you want to go into the military and you can’t be on probation when you’re in the military. You’ve already served two years and some change of a three-year probation and you can make a powerful argument that I want to joint the military. Look, the recruiter is saying I’m accepted, I’ve done everything, I want to go serve my country. Please let me off this probation. That would be a good example. There’s other examples related to jobs and family and different things that people want to do in their life, and also this is all centered around reasonableness and whether or not a judge is going to give you a break and go against the prosecutors., And even sometimes prosecutors can be convinced to terminate the probation early if you have a strong enough argument.
After probation is over, if you’ve completed everything you’re supposed to, then you’re no longer on probation and you don’t have to worry about any type of probation violation. If, on the other hand, the probation is coming to an end and you haven’t finished what you’re supposed to do or you violate in some way, then the judge can punish you and give you more things to do, put you in jail and even extend your probation, so you obviously want to do everything you can to complete what the judge ordered you to do. After the probation is over, if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to, your attorney can file a motion for expungement, which basically has the effect if it’s granted of dismissing your case. There’s no such thing as a true expungement in California as I write this blog, so you can’t completely get your conviction wiped off, but you can make it look to the public as though basically your case was dismissed, again which is the best you can do. So as long as you’ve fulfilled the terms and conditions of your probation, you have a strong argument that you can get your case dismissed.
When you have problems as if you have an internal or external violation of your probation, this can cause you big trouble in a DUI case. Internal violations typically have to do with not doing something that the judge ordered you to do. External violations typically have to do with you picking up a new case outside of your case, the judge finding out about it, and getting you for that obey all laws term and condition of your probation, and then trying to add some extra punishment on you. If you’ve got some DUI issues, you’ve got to get attorney that’s been down this road before, had success and can help you get out of the system as fast as possible.