People V. Butler - Defining California's Expungement Laws


People v. Butler
Court of Appeals California, Fourth District, Division One
May 9, 1980

Holding: A defendant will be entitled to relief under section 1203.4 even if his original probationary period has been extended, so long as his probation was terminated prior to the end of the new probationary period.

Why This Case is Important: Relief granted under section 1203.4 is a reward to the rehabilitated defendant. Completing the probationary period or obtaining early termination or discharge signifies that the defendant has indeed been rehabilitated. As a result, the court has no discretion as to whether they can or cannot grant relief; in other words, the court must grant relief.

This case illustrates the scenario in which a defendant is entitled to relief because he has obtained early termination or discharge from his probation. Once probation is terminated, the decision will be final, leaving the defendant the opportunity to apply for section 1203.4 relief. This means that evidence of rehabilitation or even a subsequent violation of the law after probation has no bearing on whether the court will grant relief. In other words, once probation is terminated, the court must grant the applied for relief under section 1203.4.

What is unqiue about this case is that defendant’s original probation was extended past the original probationary period because of failure to comply with the terms of his probation. It is important to note that although he did not comply with his probation, it was not revoked, but extended. Should his probation had been violated and revoked, the defendant would not have been entitled to relief. Here however, the defendant’s probation was then terminated before the end of the new period; once terminated, he was eligible to apply for entitled relief under section 1203.4.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case was convicted and sentenced to five years of probation. During this period, the defendant was to pay restitution within four years. Because the defendant failed to pay the full amount, he did not meet all the conditions of his probation. The court however did not revoke his probation, but extended the defendant’s probation for six months and ordered him to undergo a medical examination to determine if he was medically disabled from an automobile accident. Upon completion of the medical examination, the court terminated the defendant’s probation. The defendant subsequently applied for relief under section 1203.4, but was denied.

The court of appeals removed the order of denial and directed the trial court to grant the defendant’s requested relief. The court of appeals noted that the defendant fell in the second category of relief under section 1203.4, which entitled him to have his request granted. The court held that the fact his probation was extended was immaterial as to whether the defendant was entitled to relief, and that once probation termination is granted, then a judge has no discretion to deny that relief.

Key Language: “Once probation is terminated early, a later judge who is requested to grant relief under section 1203.4 is without discretion to deny relief.”

Expert Advice: According to attorney Mathew Higbee, “This case is useful because it reinforces the concept of entitlement under section 1203.4. Judges and prosecutors sometimes fail to understand that early termination is a definite path towards section 1203.4 entitled relief. This case is authority directly on point in establishing that a defendant who has been terminated early from probation must be granted dismissal of his conviction under section 1203.4.”

Find more legal articles in our articles database.