Chris Sept. 12, 2017

Diversionary programs are a major part to the criminal justice system in Connecticut. I have written about these "get out of jail for fees" cards in the past; in which upon completion of certain obligations the court will discharge the criminal charges before a defendant. There are many programs for many charges ranging from family violence to drug possession to the standard bearer, good old A.R. In many cases however, more than one thing is going on. A drunk driving arrest may involve a charge that is not covered by the Alcohol Education program, such as evading responsibility if there is a collision and the driver takes off; or drug possession if drugs are found in the car during the arrest. 

Sometimes prosecutors will agree to nolle a charge not covered by a program upon completion of a program. Other times you have to just apply (and then do) two programs if they are available. I've done this a few times; usually with accelerated rehabilitation being one of the programs. In an unsuccessful attempt a while back, one of my clients applied for the drug education program for his possession charges and AR for sale charges. The court denied the AR application on the ground that it could not make a finding that the charges (two counts of cocaine distribution) were not of a serious nature. We instead worked out a deal for misdemeanors and suspended time. 

Yesterday one of my clients and I resolved a serious DUI with AEP and AR combined. The client was charged with driving drunk (with minor children in the car; now a felony with mandatory jail time), evading responsibility (for hitting another car and driving off; it carries a mandatory driver's license suspension) and three counts of Risk of Injury to a Minor (for the kids being in the car; Risk is a felony). With injuries to the other driver and a very high BAC, it was anything but a routine DUI despite being eligible for both programs. Fortunately the client was very dedicated to substance abuse treatment and stayed out of trouble for the duration of the case. I was able to document the treatment and submit it to the court with character references and a brief I wrote in support of the program applications. We also had a very fair judge and prosecutor as well as victims who did not object to the applications. Diversionary programs are intended to spare people who made momentary mistakes and poor decisions from the consequences of criminal convictions (both direct and collateral). My client made bad decisions which could have been even worse. I think the court made the right decision in giving my client a second chance.