The Parliament approved with 77 votes with its third and final reading on April 17 amendments to the criminal procedure code and criminal code, according to which the rule of consecutive sentencing will be changed and it will also have retroactive force for those convicts, who are currently serving their consecutive sentences.
Changes imply shifting the rule more in favor of concurrent sentencing, but it will still be possible to apply consecutive sentencing in some cases.
According to existing rule a defendant, found guilty of multiple crimes, will receive longest of the separate sentences in full for the gravest offense and half of the sentences for other offenses; it is judge’s discretion to impose consecutive sentences in full depending on the gravity of other offenses. But it is also up to judge to halve sentences for offenses – other than the gravest one – taking into account mitigating circumstances and a defendant’s record, according to existing regulations.
Frequent use of consecutive custodial sentencing has long been cited as one of the reasons behind large prison population, which Georgia had in recent years. Georgia’s prison population declined from last April’s 23,705 to 10,324 as of April 15 mainly due to mass amnesty this year, according to the ministry in charge of penitentiary system.
After newly passed legislative amendments go into force, concurrent sentencing should prevail over consecutive one, meaning that if a person is found guilty on multiple crimes, lesser penalties should be absorbed by the graver penalties.
But judge will still have the right to apply consecutive sentencing if case involves recidivism; if a person with criminal record is found guilty of premeditated multiple offenses, judge will have a discretion to decide whether to apply consecutive sentencing or a concurrent one.
The rule should have retroactive force, according to the amendments, which means that, after it goes into effect, inmates currently serving their jail terms based on consecutive sentencing will have the right to request for reduction of their imprisonment term based on concurrent sentencing rule.