Dolan & Dolan, LLC
Pretrial Diversion in New Haven DUI Prosecutions A driver who is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Connecticut faces stiff penalties. As New Haven DUI defense attorneys, we explore all the options to help our clients minimize or avoid the consequences of a DUI arrest.
DUI Defenses In appropriate cases, the options we consider include: Seeking a dismissal on procedural grounds. Asking for evidence to be suppressed (thrown out) because the police violated the driver’s constitutional rights. Challenging chemical test results. Raising a “blood-alcohol curve” defense. Questioning whether the accused was actually driving the vehicle. Negotiating for a lesser penalty. Asking a jury to acquit based on reasonable doubt. Pretrial diversion
Many drivers think there is no hope in a DUI case. They plead guilty before considering all of their options. That is a mistake because they give up their opportunity to avoid or minimize the harsh consequences of a Connecticut DUI conviction.
DUI Penalties The penalties for a Connecticut DUI are stiff. Even a first offense conviction carries mandatory jail time or 100 hours of community service in addition to a fine and a one-year license suspension. Apart from the stigma of having a DUI conviction, most drivers find jail time or community service to be a real hardship. Second and third offenses carry longer periods of mandatory confinement as well as substantial fines. A second offense requires a three-year license suspension while a third offense is punished with a permanent revocation of driving privileges. That can be devastating for someone who depends on a vehicle to earn a living. The best way to avoid a second offense conviction is not to be convicted of a first offense. Thatâ€™s why pretrial diversion is always worth considering.
For some drivers who are charged with a Connecticut DUI, the best option is participation in a pretrial diversion program. The program, known as Pretrial Alcohol Education System (PAES), is not available in every case and, even when the driver is eligible, the prosecutor might argue against the driverâ€™s participation. A respected New Haven DUI defense attorney can improve the driverâ€™s opportunity to participate in PAES by negotiating with the prosecutor and making a compelling presentation to the judge on the driverâ€™s behalf. When a driver is allowed to participate in PAES, the criminal prosecution is put on hold. The driver must agree to waive the right to a speedy trial, but delaying a trial usually benefits the driver, even if the driver does not succeed in the PAES program.
Eligibility Only first offenders are eligible for PAES. Drivers are not eligible for PAES if they have participated in the program during the previous ten years. Drivers who are charged with an offense that resulted in a serious injury are not usually eligible. The program is not available to commercial drivers.
Evaluation An eligible driver must pay a $100 application fee and a $100 evaluation fee. If the court grants the application, it will seal the public record. That may prevent employers from learning about the charge. If the court grants the application, the driver is referred to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) for an alcohol abuse evaluation. The driver is required to sign a consent that authorizes the results of the evaluation and treatment to be released to the court. The court reviews the evaluation and holds a hearing to decide whether to refer the driver to PAES. If the court does so, the driver must pay an additional fee of $350 to $500 for participation in the alcohol intervention program. Drivers pay the actual cost if they are assigned to a substance abuse program.
PAES Requirements Based on the evaluation results, the driver will be placed in either an alcohol intervention program or a substance abuse program. Unless a driver has a drug problem, placement will usually be in an alcohol intervention program. An alcohol intervention program involves 10 or 15 counseling sessions. A substance abuse treatment program consists of 12 sessions. Successful completion of the program requires the driver to:
Attend all sessions. Arrive on time and stay until the end of the session. Participate in group discussions. Complete of all assignments. Maintain sobriety during the sessions.
A court can also order a driver to participate in a victim impact panel. Drivers need to take these obligations seriously. Only extreme circumstances, such as a death in the family, will allow a driver to restart the program after missing a session. Drivers who miss a session without an acceptable reason may be transferred to a longer and more intensive “group interaction” phase.
Outcome of PAES Counselors evaluate the driverâ€™s participation and decide whether the driver cooperated with the program. If the counselors decide that the driver is not amenable to treatment, they notify the court. The charges are then unsealed and the case moves forward. If the driver completes the program successfully, the charge remains sealed to the public. The driver can then ask the court to dismiss the charge.
Legal Advice Prosecutors frequently object to pretrial diversion when an officer claims that the driver was driving dangerously, when the driver had a high blood alcohol concentration, or when other aggravating factors convince the prosecutor that the driver should be punished. Having an aggressive DUI lawyer arguing for program participation maximizes the opportunity for pretrial diversion in those cases.
The New Haven DUI defense attorneys at Dolan & Dolan, LLC help eligible clients apply for the diversion program. We also advocate for their participation in the program before the assigned judge. In addition, we give drivers advice about what they need to do to enhance their opportunity to be admitted into the program and to complete the program successfully.