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Chris Nov. 23, 2015

There’s a misconception that some people and apparently the Associated Press have about a common criminal court program. Accelerated rehabilitation is the standard diversionary program applied for and granted every day in Connecticut’s criminal courts. I wrote about diversionary programs in greater depth here. A diversionary program, once granted, effectively suspends prosecution of a criminal case for the defendant (applicant) to fulfill certain requirements or other obligations. When the case returns to court, the charges are dismissed if the program is successfully completed. There are specific programs for drunk driving, drug possession and family violence issues. Accelerated rehabilitation–known as “A.R.” in courts–is more general in that it is not limited to specific types of offenses but only prohibited from certain charges and degrees (e.g. no A felonies). While there are quite a few restrictions and eligibility requirements, the main one is that the defendant not have a prior criminal conviction.

One of the more infamous A.R. applicants is the young man who was arrested and captured on video drunkenly demanding macaroni and cheese from a UCONN campus vendor. He applied this morning. The Register and USA Today ran the AP story which said tha the defendant “applied for probation.” They actually ran it in the headline. This is a somewhat common mistake. A.R. is usually monitored by probation’s admninistrative monitoring office. It is now however anything like actual adult probation which regularly meets and checks in with probationers and can violate them for non-compliance with court-ordered conditions. A violation of probation exposes a person to the unexecuted portion of a previous criminal sentence, which would be jail time. A violation of A.R.sends the case back to the criminal docket where it can be tried or resolved. Probation requires a conviction which is what programs are intended to avoid.

While A.R. is a good option for many people without records and many cases are obvious “A.R. cases,” it is far from a “get out of jail free card.”