Last Spring, the state’s highest court held that common law allows the tolling of privately supervised misdemeanor probation sentences according to a report issued by the Prison Legal News. The Georgia Supreme Court went further to find that this was not invalidated when state lawmakers passed the State-Wide Probation Act (SPA).
Supreme Court’s Decision
The case before the Georgia Supreme Court addressed two key questions:
- Whether tolling was authorized for privately-supervised misdemeanor probated sentences and
- Whether the common law tolling rule was trumped by the SPA.
The court answered the first in the affirmative and the second in the negative.
In answering the first question, the court cited case law dating to the late 1800s noting that the mere passage of time does not extinguish a person’s sentence. In analyzing the second, the court found that voiding the common law tolling rule would effectively render misdemeanor probation unenforceable in some circumstances by offenders simply avoiding sentencing by avoiding apprehension until after the expiration of the original sentence. They also did not think that nullifying the rule was the intent of the state legislature.
The result is that people on probation for minor offenses still have to serve their entire prison sentence, even if something occurs to interrupt the sentence.
Sentinel Offender Services
The case before the state Supreme Court was the result of a federal suit against Sentinel Offender Services (“Sentinel”), Georgia’s largest private probation company according to another report issued by the Athens Banner-Herald. Sentinel has been the subject of several complaints, and Georgia’s top court ruled against it in 2014 in a collection of 26 high-profile cases that found the company was wrong in stopping the clock on sentences for failure to pay company fees. For example, if an inmate escaped prison while serving a three-year sentence, the sentence would not keep ticking while the inmate was on the run but, rather, stop during this time and restart at recapture. The decisions in 2014 and 2016 essentially hold that only the judge, as well as common law, can pause a sentence.
Contact a Criminal Attorney
If you or someone you know has questions about probation, sentencing or has been charged with a crime contact a knowledgeable Georgia criminal attorney right away.