Supreme Judicial Court (August 22, 2008)

G.L. c 127, § 48, 49, and 49A, which gives the sheriffs authority to release committed offenders from correctional facilities under limited circumstances, also allows sheriffs to release inmates early from incarceration and place them on the GPS monitoring program.

The defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence, third offense, and sentenced to a term of two and a half years in the house of correction with 18 months to be served. After serving 195 days (including the 150 day minimum mandatory sentence), the sheriff transferred the defendant to the confinement of his home on the GPS monitoring program. The Superior Court Judge who imposed the 18 month sentence ordered the defendant and others similarly situated back into custody on the grounds that the sheriff's actions interfered with the court's authority to set sentences, in violation of Article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

The sheriff filed a notice of appeal, arguing that once a defendant has been sentenced to the house of correction, the sheriff has the authority under Article 30 to set the conditions of an inmate's incarceration as the sheriff deems appropriate, subject to any mandatory sentence requirements or other restrictions.

The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case and ruled in favor of the sheriffs. The court, however, did not reach the separation of powers issue but rather decided that G.L. c. 127, §48, 49, and 49A, which allows the sheriff to release committed offenders from correctional facilities under limited circumstances, provides specific legislative authorization for the GPS program and for the placement of defendants in it.