Last year, the Georgia Legislature passed a bill requiring judges to assign behavioral incentive dates in certain cases. The point of the law is to reduce the amount of lengthy probation sentences for first-time offenders. If the law applies, the judge must set a date at three years or less when probation will be terminated.
Who Gets a Behavioral Incentive Date?
The most current version of the law, O.C.G.A. 17-10-1 (a)(1)(B), spells out who can get a behavioral incentive date. A judge must select a date when the following conditions are present:
- The charge is for a felony
- The defendant does not have a prior felony conviction
- The sentence is for straight probation or jail time with probation afterwards
- The jail time or incarceration is not more than 12 months
If those conditions are met, the judge will choose a date (at 3 years or less) when the probationer’s sentence will be cut off, so long as the probationer had good behavior while on probation. A probationer has good behavior when he or she:
- Has no new arrests or convictions
- Is compliant with all general and special conditions of probation
- Owes no restitution
Once these last conditions are met, probation is to notify the prosecutor and the court, and produce to the court an order to terminate the Defendant’s probation. As of this year, the law applies whether or not you are using first offender or conditional discharge.
Ask your attorney about whether you should get a behavioral incentive date in your case. If you do qualify, it can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on probation. In fact, there is no limit to the amount of probation that can be reduced. For example, a 10 year sentence with 30 days in jail could become a 2 year sentence with 30 days in jail. This could also be true of a 40 or 50 year sentence. Getting a behavioral incentive date, however, is only half the battle. You must also do your part on probation — report, avoid arrests, and pay all fines, fees, and restitution. But if you do, the results are worth it!