APPLICATION OF CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED IN PRISON FOR UNRELATED CRIMES

In Commonwealth v. Holmes, the defendant pleaded guilty to a crime in 1997 and was sentenced to a term of incarceration. He completed that sentence and was released. He later committed another crime. and was sentenced to another term of incarceration. During that period of imprisonment, the defendant’s 1997 conviction was vacated and that complaint was ultimately dismissed after motion.  The defendant later moved to receive credit for the time he had served on the vacated conviction.  In other words he was asking it to be applied to the unrelated sentence he was then serving.

The judge denied the defendant’s motion and the SJC affirmed that denial. The Court explained, “Where, as here, a defendant seeks credit for unrelated crimes, there are two considerations in play: first, a prisoner should not be required to serve ‘dead time’ on a vacated sentence for which he otherwise would not receive credit, and second, a prisoner is prohibited from using ‘banked time’ from an earlier conviction toward a new conviction.   In weighing these equitable considerations, the banking prohibition outweighs any concern about dead time: ‘[T]he need to prevent criminal defendants from “banking time” for use [as immunization] against future sentences outweighs any fairness issues normally applicable in [dead time] situations.’ The Court noted that “[a]llowing credit in these circumstances would encourage defendants who previously have not filed motions for a new trial on their prior convictions to file such motions after they have already completed their sentences, solely in order to obtain a credit to be applied against sentences for subsequently-committed crimes. Only recidivists would benefit from such a system.” While denying relief to the defendant in this case, the Court “left open the possibility of allowing credit for time served on a completed sentence for an unrelated crime where [the earlier conviction has been vacated on the ground of] actual innocence.”

 

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