Georgia judges and those around the country are taking part in a new trend. The trend involves sending convicted criminals to prison for sentences they can’t possibly serve. An article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests the sentences are an effort by judges to show others, including the parole board, that these inmates are “off limits” for early release.
In Fulton County, one man was sentenced to multiple life sentences making him eligible for parole after 360 years. Another man in DeKalb County will be 111 years old before he can be considered for parole. Another Fulton County resident received four life sentences without the chance of parole, seven life sentences with parole, and an additional 485 years of prison time for charges including kidnapping, aggravated assault, and escape.
It may seem like overkill but the AJC points out that some judges may be worried about the most dangerous criminals being released should the need to trim the prison population ever come around. The article mentions the latest Supreme Court decision, mandating that California release over 30,000 inmates within the next two years, “…judges and prosecutors are using sentences longer than any human can serve: to inform those who hold the keys to the prison system that these criminals are off-limits.”
In addition to using lengthy sentences for singular offenses, more judges are “stacking” the sentences or requiring them to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
A consecutive sentence is when you are sentenced to more than one offense and those sentences have to be served back to back. A concurrent sentence is when you are sentenced to multiple offenses and they can be served at the same time.
For instance, if you are sentenced to 4 years for one crime and 5 for another and the judge requires these sentences to be consecutive, the rough maximum you will serve (without parole possibilities factored in) is 9 years. However, if you are allowed to serve them consecutively, the clock will start ticking the minute you are incarcerated on both sentence, leaving the maximum to be 5 years total.
While the AJC’s rationale makes sense and it’s probably (at least partially) correct, there’s little chance any changes in sentencing or any mandates by the high court would require the state to release murderers, whether they are serving a life sentence or ten of them.
However, judges often use sentences like these to send a message that they will not tolerate the most horrendous crimes. It could be said that the extra years are tacked on to gain political favor though, as tough sentences are often applauded in particularly well known and heinous crimes.
You don’t have to be convicted of murder to face a lengthy sentence. A judge can make an example out of you for nearly any Georgia criminal offense. If you are facing criminal charges, contact our attorneys to discuss the specifics of your case and what options might be available to you.