NEW Appellate Opinion Analyzing the Court’s Discretion to Terminate Probation Early in Domestic Violence Cases

On June 11, 2018, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, certified for publication an opinion discussing the trial court’s discretion to terminate probation early in domestic violence cases.[1] In People v. Reyna Killion (2018) 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 533, the defendant had pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm (Penal Code section 245(a)(1)) and, pursuant to a plea agreement, was granted three years of formal probation on domestic violence terms pursuant to section 1203.097.

Ms. Killion filed a motion to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor and to terminate her probationary grant early. Ms. Killion had completed her 52-week domestic violence program, had paid her balance owed to the court and had been on probation for 15 months without any probation violations. The trial court reduced the defendant’s offense to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code section 17(b) but denied her request to terminate probation early, believing that it did not have the discretion under Section 1203.097. According to the trial court, Section 1203.097 limited the courts jurisdiction and disallowed the court to impose terms other than what is minimally required under the Section.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that the trial court erred in determining that Section 1203.097 circumscribed the court’s authority to terminate the defendant’s probation pursuant to Section 1203.3.

Penal Code section 1203.097, subdivision (a)(1), provides that imposition of probation for a person convicted of a domestic violence related offense must be for a minimum period of 36 months. Under Penal Code section 1203.3, a trial court generally has authority and discretion to modify a probationary term during the probationary period, including the power to terminate the probationary term early.

According to the Court of Appeal, the legislative intent behind the statutes suggests that the Legislature intended to require an initial imposition of a 36-month term of probation in domestic violence cases, but it did not intend to circumscribe the court’s discretion under Section 1203.3 to later reduce that term upon a showing of good cause.

Therefore, the Court of Appeal determined that the court had jurisdiction to terminate the defendant’s probation and remanded the matter to the trial court for further hearing on the motion.

Great news for anyone granted probation! This opinion confirms that the court has discretion to terminate probation early on a plea agreement case.

Example circumstances for early termination of probation include: to change INS status, employment reasons and foreign travel.

[1] For a link to the full opinion: