Texas probationers are sometimes told by the lawyer representing them on an original charge, “Don’t worry about how long this probation is, you can apply for early release”. (I know this, because I’ve heard it from so many folks, it’s apparently a common thing some lawyers tell their clients.)
Now, it’s true that you can apply for early release as soon as one third of your probation period is up. The statute covering early discharge itself (Article 42.12 Section 20 Code of Criminal Procedure, “Reduction or Termination of Community Supervision”) is contained within the lengthy probation statute.
The question most probationers want to know, however, is “Will the judge in my case let me off early, and if so, when?”, or “What do I need to do to actually be discharged from probation?”
Despite some potentially confusing language in the statute, let’s start with this: early release from probation is entirely discretionary, not mandatory. There’s no way to force the judge to grant an early discharge. Even if you have completed all the terms, if the judge doesn’t want to let you out of the probation term, you’ll have to finish it.
Second, while the law allows for petitioning the court for release 1/3rd of the way through, most judges won’t grant a discharge that early. In Travis County, I’d ballpark the necessary length at somewhere between half and two thirds of the original probation term imposed before most judges will seriously consider letting you off early. Many times you hear a judge ask “You signed up for this long of a probation when you plead guilty. Why should I let you off without you completing your end of the bargain?”
Third, all conditions of probation (other than the length) must have been met: community service hours completed, classes finished, AA’s attended, monies paid, etc. As far as fees, fines, restitution and court costs goes, the only possible exception to that is some judges don’t require you to pay out the $62/month probation fees into the future. Then again, some do.
Finally, convictions for DWI, Sex Offenses, and State Jail Felonies are not eligible for early release.
No one should make a decision to accept a plea bargain in a case, on the basis of believing that they can automatically be granted an early release at some future time during the probationary period. Of course, it may be that X years of probation is truly the best deal that they can get, given the facts and circumstances of their case.