Guide to the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program
I am writing this guide to shed some light on the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program which is a frequently used tool by many Stamford Criminal Defense Lawyers on a day to day basis in Courts throughout Connecticut. Although, the process is on the surface relatively straight forward , there are many cases in which a great deal of planning, finesse, and strategy is needed in order to get some applications approved by a Judge. Originally, when the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program was first introduced, it was intended to be used for very minor offences and as time has passed it has expanded to include even Class B and C felony crimes (must show good cause). As I will explain below I have used the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program successfully in many cases in which my client was accused of Class B felonies. There is a lot of grey areas and unwritten doctrine behind the program that is not apparent in the boiler plate language of the statue itself. Originally this was a once in a lifetime program, now you can use this program again after ten years if your first offense was a minor offense.
This guide will attempt to explain some of the nuances that are not readily apparent when reading the statute on its face and only come through years of experience in working with the application of the program on a case by case basis day in and day out. Finally, I will walk you through the process of how the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program actually works.Disclaimer
This guide is no substitute for the advice and counsel of a Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney. Anyone who is charged with a crime should at least seek a free consultation with a lawyer who specializes in criminal law. Do not make the mistake of going into Court without a lawyer and having the State’s Attorney advise you to apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program without at least first having the facts of your case reviewed by an experienced Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney. The reason for this is because in many cases a skilled lawyer will be able to find some way to resolve your charges without having to use or “burn” your Accelerated Rehabilitation Program opportunity which you can only use twice in your life time or once if it is a serious charge. It is always worth a shot to put together a package of mitigating materials such as letters of recommendation, letters from therapists and employers all attesting to what a wonderful person you are and present all of this to the State’s Attorney and try to work out an alternative noncriminal resolution to your charges which saves your use of the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program for another day. I have been successful in many, many cases to convince the State’s Attorney to nolle or drop charges in exchange for community service hours, or in some cases for lesser motor vehicle charges like failure to show your insurance ID card for example in lieu of a charge of evading responsibility, which leaves my client with no criminal record and avoids having to use the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program just “in case” you have any other problems in the future. It is always the best practice to try and make an effective and convincing argument to the State’s Attorney to try and work out a resolution which saves the client’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Program – if possible. Many lawyers automatically will fill out the Accelerated Rehabilitation Applications before they even enter the Court room and just proceed with the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program route without even trying to work out an alternative solution. In my opinion they are doing their clients a disservice. All the efforts at gathering materials to put together a good case to convince the State’s Attorney to lower the charges so you don’t have to “burn” your Accelerated Rehabilitation Program are all basically the same materials that I would use to convince the Court to grant you the program in any event so they are not a waste of time.Overview
The Accelerated Rehabilitation Program is a so called “diversionary program” which allows individuals charged with a crime or motor vehicle offense to avoid a criminal conviction (and / or loss of driver’s license) by completing the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program in lieu of the normal criminal case procedure. This is why it is called a diversionary program because by applying for this program your case is suspended from the normal course of criminal prosecution and instead it tracks the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program which if successful will ultimately lead to a dismissal of all the charges and a clean criminal record.
The basis for the Accelerated Rehabilitated Program is Connecticut General Statutes Section 54-56e. On its face, the program is fairly straight forward. Keep in mind that our State Supreme Court has held that a trial Court’s decision to deny an application for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program is a final decision with no right of appeal. For this reason it is crucial to get it right the first time. You get only one bite at the apple. Your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney needs to be well prepared and make a solid argument backed up with supporting documentation on why you should be granted this program because if the Court denies the program there is no appeal and you will be facing criminal prosecution and the possibility of winding up with a criminal record if found guilty.No Prior Criminal History
The first requirement which has no wiggle room is that you can’t have any criminal conviction for a crime in Connecticut or in any other state. This does not mean violations or infractions, speeding tickets and the like. If you have any questions about what is a crime and what isn’t consult with your Stamford Criminal Defense Lawyer. Any misdemeanor or felony conviction of any kind would preclude you from being able to apply for the program. The statue lists a few other offenses the conviction of which would specifically exclude you from eligibility for the program. It is very important when applying for the program to be very candid and honest with your lawyer about your past criminal history and let him know about any past arrests or convictions you may have had even if you are unsure of the disposition of the cases. Connecticut practice is unlike other states such as New York in that the State’s Attorney generally does not provide your defense counsel with a detailed rap sheet listing your entire criminal history at the time of your arraignment. For that reason your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney is really relying on your candid and truthful answers and information about your past history when making a decision on whether to make an application for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program. When you file your application with the Court you will be placed under a sworn oath and questioned as to your criminal history. If you lie about your criminal history the office of adult probation will be conducting a criminal background check on you and if they find any records of past convictions not only will your application be denied but also you face the rick that the State’s Attorney may decide to add the charge of Perjury to your case which is a serious felony. For these reasons if you have any doubts it is better to bring them to your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney’s attention so that he or she can bring them to the Court’s attention at the time of your application. For example if 8 years ago you were charged with a crime in Virginia but do not recall the exact disposition it is a good practice to put that information on the record at the time of your application to protect you against any claim of perjury.A. The Crime You Are Charged with Does Not Falls within the List of Offenses Precluded by the Statute
The statue has an extensive list of offences for which you are precluded from using Accelerated Rehabilitation to resolve. Read the statue and application itself carefully. All the excluded offenses are listed.
Many of them are excluded because they have their own separate diversionary programs – e.g. Family Violence Crimes; (Family Violence Education Program); DWI, (Alcohol Education Program) , etc. Please refer to the statute and read it carefully to see if your offense is included.
Also a common issue is the revision which excluded those with CDL’s from using the program for a motor vehicle violation.
The statue expressly states that you can’t use it for Class A and Class B felonies (with certain limited exceptions for some Class B felonies). However in my 25 years of practice I have used the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program for clients charged with Class B felonies with success. Also, I have had situations where clients have had been charged with crimes that were not on the list of crimes for which Accelerated Rehabilitation was available and I worked with the State’s Attorney to negotiate a modification of the charges – (commonly known as “substituted charges”) to change the original charges to new charges which allowed my client to apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program. Also, often a deal can be struck with the State and the Court in which you will apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program for one Count that you are charged with, with the understanding that the State will drop or nolle the remaining charge for which you could not apply for Accelerated Rehabilitation if you successfully complete the program. There are many creative ways of working with the program and extending its reach beyond what is obvious on the four corners of the document. This area of the practice of law takes finesse. It takes negotiation and it takes positive input from the victim and frequently it takes making any restitution owed up front. Those charged with a Class C felony must show “good cause.” There is no specific definition of what is meant by “good cause.” In practice “good cause” means to me that you have to go above and beyond in explaining the criminal behavior and giving a very positive presentation on behalf of your client about what a great person they are and how this incident was an isolated act in an otherwise long and law abiding life filled with good behavior. If you are charged with a felony and going to be applying for Accelerated Rehabilitation it is imperative that you retain the services of an experienced Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney who has many years of experience in working with the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program. The difference between getting into the program or not can have a huge impact on your life.B. Stage One
When your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney has obtained and reviewed the police report, tried to work out an alternative resolution with the State to no avail and you are left with no other option it is time to proceed with the Application for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program which is provided at the Clerk’s Office at the Court on Official Form JD-CR-9- or on line. When your case is called, your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney will advise the Court that you will be making an application for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program and hand the signed application to the Court Clerk. Then the Judge or Clerk will swear you under oath and then ask you a series of questions to determine if you meet the statutory eligibility for the program. It is important as stated above to be very candid about any prior arrests for which you may not recall the actual dispositions and put the details which you know on the record to protect yourself against a possible charge of perjury which would possibly be worse than the charge you are presently facing. Once the Court has finished questioning you the Court will assign a second Court hearing date for the next stage of the process. At this point the Court will usually inquire if Victim notice is required. If there are any victims of the crime for which you are charged you or your Attorney will be required to send a Notice of the next Court hearing to all victims via certified mail return receipt requested. At this point you will then go to the Clerk’s office to pay the $35 program application fee. Thereafter, you have to report to the office of adult probation to provide them information about you so they can complete a background check. The exact procedure for this part works slightly differently in the various Courts across the State. In some Courts you simply fill out a form and hand it in. In other Courts you wait in line to meet with probation who asks you questions and takes a copy of your ID. The Clerk of the Court or your Stamford Criminal Defense Lawyer will be able to guide you through the process. Congratulations you have completed Stage one of your application. Now the real work begins.C. Stage Two
Preparation is the key to success.
Every time I get ready to argue an Application for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program, depending on the nature of the charges I usually ask for some of the following documents from my client to help bolster my position that my client is a good person of good character who made a bad decision which was out of character and who is “not likely to offend again in the future.” In order to approve the application the Court must make a finding that the accused is “not likely to offend again in the future.” This is why I like to present some materials to help strengthen my position and argument on behalf of my client.
Some useful documents:
Letters of reference, employers, co-workers, friends, police officers, priests, teachers, etc.
For Motor Vehicle crimes a driving history from the CT DMV (if it is a clean one); for those charged with operation under suspension a restoration notice from the DMV; for those charged with driving without a license some documentation that they have taken steps to work towards apply to obtain a license
For students a transcript of their grades – if they have a good GPA
Anyone charged with a crime in which drug or alcohol abuse was a factor – A.A. class attendance sheets from the date of arrest to the date of the argument showing attendance at least 2 times a week attendance at A.A.
Also those charged with crimes in which drug or alcohol was a factor often I will refer them through the Court to Court mandated AIC drug or alcohol treatment program in advance of my application to show the Court that they have successfully completed the 12 week AIC program - (this depends on the severity of the case, the anticipated difficulty I think I may encounter to get the program granted and the degree to which it appears that the criminal behavior was a result of intoxication)
FULL restitution to the victim for any out of pocket expenses or losses up front – if possible
Letter evidencing liability insurance was in effect on the date of the accident for any case involving a motor vehicle accident
Letter from a therapist attesting that the client has been seeking therapy since the date of arrest to deal with the behavioral issues which lead to the criminal arrest and that these issues are being addressed in the therapy sessions
Those charged with any type of sex crime such as sexual assault in the 4th degree for example, it may be useful to send the client to a psychologist to get a sexual offender evaluation. This evaluation will screen you to determine if you have any risk factors as a sexual offender or if your crime was an isolated incident. This kind of report will greatly help the Court when making a decision on your application.
This list is just some examples. Each case is unique. Your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney will have to sit down with you and review the facts of your case and figure out just what documents and evidence is needed to ace your 2nd stage Accelerated Rehabilitation Argument. My main thrust is be prepared. This may seem like a lot of work but my approach is to be prepared and I have a proven track record of having the vast majority of my client’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Applications granted using these methods. Your lawyer should know all the details about your work and family history and all the good things about you to make a well thought out 3 to 5 minute argument to the Court about why you are a good person and why you are “not likely to offend again in the future.” Your lawyer needs to be able to condense your whole life’s story into that short span of time and hit the most important highlights in a convincing manner in that short period of time to convince the Judge why you “are not likely to offend again in the future” and why “your crime is not so serious” that the program should not be granted.
What actually happens in State 2 is first they call your case. When you walk up the Clerk indicates in you were found eligible for the program by probation. If there were any victims this is when your Criminal Defense Attorney hands up to the Court the notices which he sent out by certified mail and the Judge canvasses the Court to see if any of them showed up to address the Court, (Most of the time they don’t show up). Next the Court will ask the State’s Attorney to give a brief summary of the facts of your crime and express the State’s position on your application. This is the time where your Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney will have his opportunity to convince the Judge that you are a good person who made an out of character mistake and that you are not likely to “offend again in the future” based upon the materials that he provided and based upon his argument.
A second requirement that your Criminal Defense lawyer must convince the Judge is that the crime(s) for which you are charged “are not so serious that the program should not be granted.” This is a highly subjective aspect of the process and varies from Court to Court and Judge to Judge. There is no black and white cut off that says this crime is too serious and that crime is not too serious. We know that some crimes are certainly way too serious, for example murder. We know that shoplifting is not too serious. When you get into the middle ground a lot of this becomes an art in how you manage the situation. I feel that how you present the client and the references and documentation and materials which you present on behalf of the accused can go a long way to convincing a Judge that the crime is not “too serious.” This is all why it is really important that if you want to have the best shot at having your Application for Accelerated Rehabilitation granted you want to have a very experienced Stamford Defense Attorney there to use his or her years or experience to put together just the right words to make a short , logical, persuasive, and reasonable argument which helps the Judge make the leap of logic to determine that your “ probably will not offend again in the future” and secondly that your crime is “not to serious.”D. Program Granted What’s Next?
Congratulations, the Court has just made the decision to grant your application for the program so listen carefully because more and more Judge’s are imposing special conditions as part of the program. In every case entry into the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program requires that you pay the program fee of $100 and that you stay out of trouble and do not pick up any new criminal charges during the period of your probationary period – (the time of the program) - which can be anywhere from one day to two full years). However, lately it has been the case that Judge’s are ordering lots of special conditions along with the program which you will be required to follow in order to successfully complete the program. It is super important that you pay attention and make note of all of the special conditions and document your completion of all requirements and have proof. Many people tend to forget all about their special conditions after they get the program granted and that leads to problems down the road.
Some of the special conditions you may typically see imposed include but are not limited to:
- Restitution to the victim
- No contact with the Victim
- Stay out of the Victim’s location
- Anger management classes
- Community service hours
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- No driving without a valid license
- No driving unless registered and insured
- Attend AA classes on a regular basis
- See a therapist for treatment
When the Court hearing is concluded you will be given a continuance or completion date. Assuming that you do not pick up any new arrests and that you follow all of any special conditions which were imposed by the Court on your completion date the charges against you will be dismissed. Before you leave the Court you must go to the Clerk’s office and pay the $100 program fee and then go to the Office of Adult Probation who will enroll you into the program. It is important to follow any directions that the Probation Office may have for you.Conclusion
Please be advised this is just a brief summary of, and overview of the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program application procedure and some thoughts on the process.
While an individual charged with a crime does not have to retain a lawyer to file an Accelerated Rehabilitation Program application, retaining an experienced Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney can make the difference between success and failure and certainly at the very least make the process a lot easier and less confusing.
If you have been charged with a crime or motor vehicle violation in Connecticut and believe that you may qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program feel free to call my offices today to arrange a free consultation to review the process and see how my 25 years of experience in the local Courts can go to work to put together a winning strategy for your Accelerated Rehabilitation Application.