MCFADDEN, P. J., BRANCH and BETHEL, JJ.
2015, fifteen years after her conviction for possession of
cocaine, Danielle Bishop filed a petition for the retroactive
grant of first offender status under subsection (d) of OCGA
§ 42-8-66, a procedure which was added to the statute in
2015 and became effective on July 1, 2015. The trial court
dismissed the motion on the ground that the petition was not
available as to sentences entered before its effective date.
On appeal, Bishop argues that the trial court should have
considered her motion on the merits. We disagree and
relevant facts are not in dispute. On February 3, 2000,
Bishop pled guilty to a felony charge of possession of
cocaine and was sentenced to two years probation. On October
20, 2015, having found that her conviction appeared on a
background check in Nevada, Bishop filed a petition "to
resentence [her] felony conviction" under the First
Offender Statute and OCGA § 42-8-66. The State responded
to Bishop's motion with arguments including that because
the Act provides that it "shall apply to sentences
entered on or after" July 1, 2015, and because
Bishop's sentence was entered before that date, the
petition and procedures authorized by the statute were not
available to her. After a hearing, the trial court dismissed
Bishop's petition on this ground. Bishop then filed a
timely notice of appeal in which she asserted that the trial
court's order was "a final judgment of the Superior
Court" such that this Court had jurisdiction over the
argues that the trial court erred when it failed to consider
the merits of her petition for retroactive application of
first offender treatment. We disagree.
brought her petition pursuant to OCGA § 42-8-66, which
provides in relevant part as follows:
(a) An individual who qualified for sentencing pursuant to
this article but who was not informed of his or her
eligibility for first offender treatment may, with the
consent of the prosecuting attorney, petition the superior
court in the county in which he or she was convicted for
exoneration of guilt and discharge pursuant to this
article. . . .
(c) In considering a petition pursuant to this Code section,
the court may consider any: (1) Evidence introduced by the
petitioner; (2) Evidence introduced by the prosecuting
attorney; and (3) Other relevant evidence.
(d) The court may issue an order retroactively
granting first offender treatment and discharge the defendant
pursuant to this article if the court finds by a
preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was eligible
for sentencing under the terms of this article at the time he
or she was originally sentenced and the ends of justice and
the welfare of society are served by granting such
question we face is a simple one: whether the 2015 Act's
command that it "shall apply to sentences entered on or
after" July 1, 2015, necessarily means that the petition
authorized by OCGA § 42-8-66 (d) is not available to
defendants whose sentences were entered before that date.
2015 Ga. L. Act 73, § 6-1.
[I]n considering the meaning of a statute, our charge as an
appellate court is to presume that the General Assembly meant
what it said and said what it meant. . . . [T]oward that end,
we must afford the statutory text its plain and ordinary
meaning, consider the text contextually, read the text in its
most natural and reasonable way, as an ordinary speaker of
the English language would, and seek to avoid a construction
that makes some language mere surplusage. . . . [W]hen the
language of a statute is plain and susceptible of only one
natural and reasonable construction, courts must construe the
In re Whittle, 339 Ga.App. 83, 86 (1) (793 S.E.2d
123) (2016) (footnotes and punctuation omitted). We have seen
no law suggesting that because the section of a law setting
its effective date is, as here, not codified (see OCGA §
42-8-66, 2016 Supplement to Volume 29A [2014 edition], p.
110), that section has less dignity or force than other
sections of the same law. On the contrary, at least one
federal court considering this issue has concluded that even
when the effective date of a statutory amendment was not
codified, "it was enacted, and [thus] has the force of
law." Patten v. United States, 116 F.3d 1029,
1033, n. 3 (4th Cir. 1997).
the General Assembly instructed that the Act, including OCGA
§ 42-8-66 (d), "shall apply to sentences entered on
or after" July 1, 2015, and so we conclude that the
petition authorized by OCGA § 42-8-66 (d) is not
available to defendants ...