Nicole Richie

Fame Pictures

New Year, new start for Nicole Richie.

Three months before it was formally scheduled to end, a source confirms to E! News that a judge this morning agreed to cut short the starlet's planned 18-month probation, citing some very, very good behavior on the newlywed's part.

Now that's a belated Christmas present worth waiting for. But did Nicole get a little extra star treatment, or was her deal all aboveboard?

No scandal here! As months upon months of paparazzi pictures can attest, Richie has been diligently attending her alcohol education program—even more so since this summer, when her probation was extended for an additional year after her motherhood duties caused her to miss a few classes.

Which seems like even more of a reason why her probation should still be going on, right? Nope. At the same time it was extended, the judge told Richie that while her probation was scheduled to last through March 2011, he'd do away with her remaining months if she managed to fulfill all her obligations before then. Which she did.

Her ever-resourceful attorney Shawn Chapman Holley was in court bright and early this morning seeing to that, submitting proof of Richie's completion of her alcohol-education program, as well as a glowing report from the facility.

Richie's problems with the law stem back to December 2006, when she was caught driving the wrong way on the freeway and failed a field sobriety test. She was sentenced to spend four days in the slammer, though infamously logged just 82 minutes behind bars for the indiscretion.

What a difference four years makes.

—Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum

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