If you have been arrested for the first time, it can be quite a scary and anxiety-filled situation. You enter the world of criminal law, and it is a world about which you know nothing. Even though every criminal defendant has the right to represent themselves in court, many find that hiring a lawyer, who knows the inner workings of the courthouse, is the best way to handle this situation, especially for first-time offenders. There are many diversionary programs in the State of Connecticut designed for criminal defendants who have never been arrested before and do not plan on being arrested again. Without knowledge of the courts, a new criminal defendant may not know and understand the options available upon arrest and upon the first appearance in court. Having an attorney, fighting for your rights and protecting your interests, is the best thing you can do. Yes, it will cost you money. But, the results will be worth it in the end. Even though no attorney can make a guarantee to you on the outcome of the case, attorneys have the knowledge and skill to provide you with the best possible defense and argue for the best possible outcome. This outcome may include applying for one of the many diversionary programs offered by our state.

For example, if you have been arrested for the first time for driving under the influence (“DUI”), you may be eligible for the Alcohol Education Program (“AEP”). For AEP, you pay to the court an initial application fee of $100 plus an initial evaluation fee of $100. You are then evaluated to determine your eligibility. If you are deemed eligible for the program, you will either be told to take 10 classes (for $350) or 15 classes (for $500). As long as you have completed these classes within one year, along with any other conditions set by the court, your charges should be dismissed.

In addition, there are other diversionary programs also available to first-time offenders. If, for example, you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or a Class D felony (or a Class C felony, if good cause is shown), you may be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitation (“AR”). In this program, you pay an initial application fee of $35 and, if you are deemed eligible for the program, you will then pay a program fee of $100. For this program, you will be placed on probation for a period of time, which could range from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the ruling from the judge. This would not normally be the type of probation that would require you to report to a probation officer on a regular basis. You must simply abide by the court rules, including not getting arrested during your probationary period. If you are successful and obey the rules set by the court, your charges should be dismissed at the end of your probationary period.

Furthermore, if you are arrested for a family violence crime, you may be eligible for the Family Violence Education Program (“FVEP”). There is an application fee of $100 and then, if you are deemed eligible, there is a program fee of $300. You will have to take a series of classes and satisfy any other conditions imposed by the court. If you are successful and abide by the court’s rulings, the charges should be dismissed at the end of the program.

These three programs are probably the most widely used by first-time offenders, but there are other programs available in our court system. This is why finding the right attorney, who can guide you through the criminal court system, if the best way to handle your case and the best way to invest in trying to save your future.