Accelerated Rehabilitation Program
The accelerated rehabilitation program is a Connecticut court diversionary program that allows first-time offenders to have their criminal charges dismissed. Using a diversionary program is not an admission of guilt. The accelerated rehabilitation program a/k/a “A/R” is a very commonly used diversionary program. Although the process seems relatively straight forward, there are many cases in which planning, finesse, and strategy are needed in order to get applications approved by a judge.
Initially, when accelerated rehab, Connecticut General Statutes Section 54-56e, was first introduced, it was intended to be used for minor offenses, and as time has passed, it has expanded to include even some Class B and C felony crimes (must show good cause). There is a lot of grey area and unwritten doctrine behind the program that is not apparent in the boilerplate language of the statute itself. Initially, this was a once in a lifetime program, and now you can use this program again after ten years if your first offense was minor.
This guide 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. Finally, I will walk you through the process of how accelerated rehab in CT works.Disclaimer
This guide is no substitute for the advice and counsel of a Connecticut 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 Connecticut criminal lawyer.
The reason for this is because in many cases, a skilled lawyer will be able to resolve your charges without having to use or “burn” your accelerated rehabilitation program. It is always worth trying 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 cases to convince the state’s attorney to nolle or drop charges in exchange for community service hours or a charitable contribution, which leaves my client with no criminal record and avoids having to use the accelerated rehabilitation program. 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 that saves the client’s accelerated rehabilitation program. Prudent individuals who are charged with a crime should always seek the advice and counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.Overview
The accelerated rehabilitation program is a “diversionary program” which allows individuals charged with a crime or motor vehicle offense to avoid a trial and the possibility of a criminal conviction (and loss of driver’s license) by completing the accelerated rehabilitation program in lieu of the ordinary 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 your case enters the accelerated rehabilitation program which will result in a dismissal of all the charges.
The statutory basis for the accelerated rehabilitated program is Connecticut General Statutes Section 54-56e. On its face, the program is relatively 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 Connecticut criminal lawyer 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 application 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, then consult with a Connecticut criminal defense lawyer. Any misdemeanor or felony conviction of any kind would preclude you from being able to apply for the program. The statute lists a few other offenses the conviction of which would expressly 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 her know about any past arrests or convictions you may have had even if you are unsure of the disposition of the cases.
When you file your application with the court you will be placed under oath and questioned 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 risk that the state’s attorney may decide to add the charge of perjury to your case which is a felony. If you have any doubts, it is better to bring them to your criminal lawyer’s attention so that he or she can bring them to the court’s attention at the time of your application. For example, if eight 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 offenses 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 prohibition, which excludes those with CDL’s from using the program for a motor vehicle violation.
The statute expressly states that you can’t use it for Class A and Class B felonies (with certain limited exceptions for some Class B felonies). I have had situations where clients have had been charged with crimes that were not on the list of crimes for which accelerated rehab in CT is 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 upfront.Good Cause
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 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 law-abiding life filled with good behavior. If you are charged with a felony and going to be applying for accelerated rehab, it is imperative that you retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has years of experience in working with the accelerated rehabilitation program. The difference between getting into the program or not can have a significant impact on your life.B. Stage One
The application for the accelerated rehabilitation program which is provided online or at the clerk’s office at the court on official form JD-CR-9. When your case is called, your 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 place 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, 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.
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 notice to any victim 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. After that, you have to report to the office of adult probation to provide them information about you so they can complete a background check. This exact procedure varies slightly differently in the various courts across the state. The clerk of the court or your Connecticut 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 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 operating 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 two 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 upfront – 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 significantly help the court when making a decision on your application.
This list is just a guideline. Each case is unique. Your Connecticut 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 are needed to ace your 2nd stage accelerated rehabilitation argument. This may seem like a lot of work, but my approach is to be well prepared, and I have a proven track record of having the vast majority of my client’s accelerated rehabilitation program applications granted. 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 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 happens in State 2 is first, they call your case. When you walk up, the clerk indicates whether you were found eligible for the program by the office of probation. If there were any victims, this is when your criminal defense attorney hands up to the court the notices which she 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 – but they have a right to be heard).
Next, the court will ask the state’s attorney to give a brief summary of the facts of your crime and indicate the state’s position on your application. This is the time where your Connecticut criminal lawyer 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 “is 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. How you present the client, and the 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 Connecticut criminal attorney to put together just the right words to make a short, logical, persuasive, and reasonable argument on your behalf. The judge must determine that you probably will not offend again in the future and secondly that your crime is “not too serious.”D. Program Granted What’s Next?
More and more judges are imposing special conditions as part of the program. In every case entry into the accelerated rehab program in CT 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 the program. The program can last anywhere from one day to two full years.
However, lately, it has been the case that Judges are ordering lots of special conditions along with the program which you will be required to follow in order to complete the program successfully. It is super important that you pay attention to, and keep proof of your completion of any special conditions. 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 away from the home of the victim’s;
- Anger management classes;
- Community service hours;
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment;
- No driving without a valid license;
- No driving unless properly registered and insured;
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
When the court hearing is concluded, you will be given a continuance or completion date. 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 essential to follow any directions that the probation officer may have for you. 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.Conclusion
This is just a brief summary of, and an 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 Connecticut 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 plus years of experience in Connecticut courts can go to work to put together a winning strategy for your accelerated rehabilitation application.