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People V. Chandler - Defining California's Post Conviction Relief and Probation Termination Laws

People v. Chandler
Court of Appeals California, Second District, Division Five
April 10, 1988

Holding: A defendant who has not completed the conditions of his probation and who has not obtained early termination is not entitled to relief under Penal Code section 1203.4.

Why This Case is Important: There are many reasons why a defendant might receive early termination from probation. The bottom line is that the court will discharge probation prior to the expiration date if there is good cause; generally, good cause arises from evidence of good conduct and reform. Timing is crucial when it comes to early termination. For example, the defendant in People v. Butler was discharged three months prior to the end of his probation, and was therefore entitled to relief. In this case, the defendant also had his probation terminated. The difference being that the termination was not prior to the end of the probation date, but at least two months after the probationary period expired. Because there was not an early termination of probation, the defendant was not entitled to Penal Code section 1203.4 relief.

Furthermore, this case clarifies that a decision by the court to not revoke probation despite an existing violation does not mean that the defendant has complied with the terms of his probation. Evidence presented that the terms of probation have been violated will prevent a defendant from claiming he is entitled to relief.

Facts of the Case: The defendant in this case plead guilty to one count of receiving stolen property. The defendant was placed on probation for three years and was ordered to pay restitution through the probation department. However, the defendant failed to pay his restitution, and the court made a preliminary finding that the defendant was in violation of his probation. The court revoked his probation one day before it was set to end for the sole purpose of retaining power over the case. The court set a hearing two months after the end of the probationary period to determine if the defendant did indeed violate his probation. During the hearing, the court found that defendant failed to pay restitution fines. However, the defendant’s probation officer testified that the defendant tried to comply, but was financially unable to do so. As such, the court ultimately did not revoke his probation; instead the court reinstated the probation and subsequently terminated it.

The defendant moved the court to dismiss his conviction pursuant to section 1203.4, arguing first that he had complied with the terms of his probation, and second that he was discharged early from probation. The trial court denied his relief.

The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. It held that a court’s discretion to not revoke a defendant’s probation does not amount to a finding that the defendant has complied with the terms of his probation. Furthermore, the court determined that the defendant had not obtained early termination, because his probation had ended two months prior to the probation termination. As a result, he was not entitled to relief.

Key Language: “Trial court’s decision at end of probationary period to terminate probation rather than to extend it so that defendant could pay remainder due in restitution did not constitute full discharge of all restraints and conditions of probation so as to entitle defendant to dismissal of charges”

Expert Advice: “Not all attorney’s are aware that a defendant may not be entitled to Penal Code section 1203.4 relief, especially in a complex matter such as the one in this case. It is important for attorneys to know the details of their client’s case, and to understand the court’s procedural actions. Without an expert grasp on such complex matters, an attorney risks wasting the client’s time and money in seeking relief.” Attorney Paul Hecht

To read about more cases that help to define expungement and record clearing relief laws click here.

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