New law to affect Georgians

Published 7:26 pm Sunday, September 3, 2017

Senate Bill 174 quietly became law this summer. However, its effect on all Georgians will be felt soon.

The part of the bill that will have the biggest impact is the Behavior Incentive Date for early termination of probation.

Under the new law, some probationers, regardless of the length of probation originally ordered, are eligible to have their probation terminated after only three years. This applies to new cases as well as old ones. If a person was placed on probation for twenty years in 2010, he or she may be eligible for early termination today.

The new law also applies to sentences under the First Offender Act. Here are the criteria that must be met to qualify: You must be on probation for one  or more of the offenses listed in OCGA 42-8-21. These offenses include, but are not limited to, drug offenses, burglary and criminal damage to property among others. Sex offenses and serious violent felony offenses are not listed.

Probationers who are convicted or sentenced as first offenders for these crimes are not eligible for early termination.

You must have no prior felony convictions. This does not include split sentences. To qualify, the probationer must have a straight probation sentence. An example of a straight probation sentence would be eight years to serve on probation. A split sentence, such as ten years to serve four in prison, does not qualify.

You must be compliant with all conditions of probation.

Restitution must be paid in full. For example, if a probationer destroyed $3,000 worth of property, he must pay this back to reimburse the victim before early termination can be considered and have no arrests other than non-serious traffic offenses or a probation revocation during the period of supervised probation.

Victims will be notified if a probationer is being considered for early termination.

Also, active supervised probation, as opposed to unsupervised probation, can be terminated after two years if restitution is paid in full. There are other exceptions to this rule as well.

If these criteria are met, then the probationer can obtain a Behavior Incentive Date, which is a date when the probationer is reviewed for early termination.

Today, there are thousands of Georgians eligible for early termination of probation. By taking advantage of the new law, probationers will be able to do so many things that being on probation hinders.

Jason W. Swindle Sr. is a Senior Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney at Swindle Law Group in Carrollton.