Connecticut DUI / DWI First-Time Offender Programs: The Alcohol Education Program
Any expert in Connecticut DWI / DUI law would agree that the most common defense strategy used to resolve a Bridgeport or Norwalk CGS 14-227a DWI / DUI charge is to get your client admitted into Connecticut’s Alcohol Education Program. This is a DUI / DWI first-time offender’s program unique to Connecticut. It is a privilege, however–not an automatic right—so it’s recommended you hire a top Norwalk or Bridgeport DUI / DWI criminal lawyer to first, assist you in preparing your Alcohol Education program application, and second, argue your application at the hearing where you could be met with strong resistance from both the prosecutors and any victims of your Connecticut drunk driving arrest.
So if you have been arrested for a CGS 14-227a DUI / DWI in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, Danbury, Waterbury, Trumbull, Stratford, Milford, or any other Connecticut town or city, and are interested in learning more about this first time offender’s program, you should call a top Bridgeport and Norwalk DUI / DWI criminal lawyer to ensure you have the best chances of getting the Alcohol Education First Time Offenders Program which, if successfully completed, will result in the complete dismissal and erasure of your DWI / DUI charges.
The Basics – What Is the Alcohol Education Program?
The Pre-Trial Alcohol Education Program (frequently referred to as the “AEP” or “AE Program”) is a Connecticut Diversionary Program that gives certain drivers who are charged with the crime of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence, DUI/DWI, a second chance. The program is codified in C.G.S. § 54-56g.
The Alcohol Education Program requires defendants to complete weekly one-hour long classes over a 10 or 15 week period. The length of the program depends on the results of an evaluation you are required to attend during the application process. All you need to do is show up on time for these classes. There are no tests, exams, pop quizzes, or drug / alcohol urine or breath tests. However, with the absurd and chronic traffic problems in Southern Connecticut, especially on Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway, showing up on time can become a problem so be sure to sign up for classes at a time when you know you will not have any tardiness issues. The programs are offered at a variety of locations throughout Connecticut, so it is important to pick one that is close to where you live or work.
In addition to the weekly classes, the Alcohol Education Program requires you to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel.
If it’s your first offense and you successfully complete all of the court-ordered requirements of the Alcohol Education Program, your Connecticut DUI / DWI 14-227a charges will be dismissed by the Court and effectively “erased” from your criminal arrest record.
The AEP Application Process
If you have been charged with CGS 14-227a DUI / DWI in Bridgeport, Hartford, or any other Connecticut jurisdiction, then you may be eligible for the Alcohol Education Program. Getting the AEP is neither automatic nor guaranteed. The application process is broken into two three stages: the application hearing, an eligibility screening process, followed by an adversarial hearing in front of a Superior Court judge.
Eligibility Step 1 – Applying in Court for the Connecticut DUI / DWI First Time Offenders AEP Program
Eligibility screening is the first step in getting you the Alcohol Education Program. The Court must determine if your charges are in fact eligible for the program. Eligible charges include:
- C.G.S. § 14-227a – Operation while under the influence or while having an elevated blood alcohol content. Note, however, that the AEP is not available to (a) drivers charged with DUI / DWI while operating a commercial motor vehicle or while holding a commercial driver’s license or commercial driver’s instruction permit, (b) drivers who have used the AEP in the 10-year period prior to their application; and (c) any driver with a prior misdemeanor or felony DWI conviction in Connecticut or any other state;
- C.G.S. § 14-227g – Under 21 DWI / DUI. Operation by a person under 21 years of age while their blood alcohol content exceeds .02;
- C.G.S. § 15-133 – Boating While intoxicated (“BWI / BUI”) or Operation of vessel while under the influence of liquor or drugs.
At your court appearance, your top Bridgeport and Hartford DUI / DWI criminal lawyer will submit the written application for the Alcohol Education Program on your behalf. At this court appearance, the judge will ask you to swear under oath to the following: (i) that you have never applied for or used the AEP in the past 10 years (or a similar program in another state), and (ii) that you have never been convicted of a drunk driving offense. (You will not be asked any questions relating to the facts surrounding your arrest). If you are at all unsure as to whether the answer to these questions is “no”, then you need to talk to your Hartford DUI / DWI lawyer before your case is called. A dishonest or even mistaken answer to these two questions can result in felony perjury charges.
The court will then set a date for a hearing on your application which usually takes place 4 to 6 weeks from the date of your application. Immediately following your courtroom appearance, you will proceed to the clerk’s office where you will pay a $200 application fee, followed by a brief meeting with your attorney and the Bail Commissioner to set a date for an eligibility screening interview at the State-contracted alcohol education facility, usually Connecticut Renaissance or Crossroads. This interview will take place 2 to 3 weeks from your court appearance.
Eligibility Step 2 – The Screening Interview at Connecticut Renaissance / Crossroads
Your screening interview will take place at the alcohol education facility. This will be a 20-30 minute interview with a counselor from Connecticut Renaissance or Crossroads, who will be evaluating whether you should be placed in their 10-week or 15-week program. There are no wrong answers here; however, the best Bridgeport and Stamford Connecticut DUI / DWI 14-227a lawyers will usually recommend to their clients to discuss this interview with your criminal attorney prior to attending this evaluation.
Eligibility Step 3 – The Court Hearing on Your Alcohol Education Program Application
At the next court date, you will learn if the Bail Commissioner’s Office has determined that you are eligible for the AEP, and your Bridgeport DUI / DWI criminal lawyer will attend and participate in a hearing in Superior Court on the sole issue of whether you should receive the program. The State’s Attorney’s Office (i.e., the prosecutors) will be asked to declare their position to the Court and explain if and why they are objecting to your admission into the Alcohol Education Program.
As a matter of practice, prosecutors typically object to program applications when one or more of the following factors are involved in a DUI / DWI case:
- High Blood Alcohol Content readings and levels;
- High rates of speed involved during a DUI / DWI arrest;
- DUI / DWI arrests with other passengers in the car (especially children);
- DUI / DWI car accidents causing property damage or personal injury;
- Refusal of the breath test (as they believe you are intentionally hiding a high Blood Alcohol Content level);
- Cases where the alleged victims of your DUI / DWI are objecting or have suffered financial loss or other hardship as a result of your conduct; and
- DUI / DWI arrests that involve allegations of disrespect, abuse or assault on police officers.
At this hearing, the court can hear testimony from your criminal lawyer, the prosecution, any alleged victims of your DUI / DWI (who must be notified of the date and time of this hearing), and in some cases, any arresting officers. The court will take into consideration several factors when deciding whether or not to grant you the Alcohol Education program such as your personal and professional history, the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against you, your level of contrition and remorse, the risk you pose to re-offend, the Bail Commissioner’s recommendations, the rate of speed your vehicle was traveling, your driving history, your criminal record, your age, and other factors that will be vetted out in Court at this hearing.
The best Connecticut DUI / DWI 14-227a attorneys would agree that this application hearing is critical: if you are granted the Alcohol Education Program, then you have a chance of wiping your record clean of your DUI / DWI arrest and charges. If you are denied the program, then you will have to fight the charges, may have to go to trial, or might have to enter into plea bargain negotiations. In this latter scenario, the chances of you having a permanent criminal record for DUI / DWI and losing your driver’s license for a period of time increase substantially. That’s why it is necessary for you to hire a top Hartford DUI / DWI attorney to handle your 14-227a case from the beginning, and work with them to craft and assemble the strongest application package for the Alcohol Education Program.
If You’re Granted the Program – Getting to the Alcohol Education Program Finish Line
If you are granted the program, then the Court will order you to attend 10 or 15 weekly classes, as well as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel program. If it is a serious case, then the Court has wide discretion to order additional conditions as part of your Alcohol Education Program, such as community service, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car, AA meetings, and in serious cases, revoke your driving privileges altogether for the duration of the program. Again, the threat of these additional conditions is all the more reason to make sure you are standing beside a top Stamford Connecticut 14-227a DUI / DWI attorney to argue against these conditions. There is a $350 program fee for the 10- week program and a $500 fee for the 15-week program that must be paid that day. Additionally, the court will require you to complete a MADD Victim Impact Panel, which requires a $75 fee. The Office of the Bail Commissioner will make arrangements to set up your classes with Connecticut Renaissance that has locations in Stamford, Norwalk, and Bridgeport (or at Crossroads which as locations in other parts of the State). These facilities will provide you with the available dates and times for the courses.
Alternatively, an experienced DUI / DWI lawyers may be able to persuade the Court to allow you to participate in an out-of-state weekend alcohol education program instead of the weekly classes in Connecticut. This alternative has been a good fit for some clients with uncertain work-related travel schedules. These clients often cannot attend the weekly classes on a certain date and time. In these cases, we have successfully persuaded the court to permit them to attend an out-of-state program. Contact a top Bridgeport DUI attorney for more information on this option.
Completion of the Alcohol Education Program & Dismissal of Your 14-227 Charges
Approximately one year from the court date on which you were granted the AEP, you will have another court date at which your Connecticut DUI / DWI attorney will present proof of your compliance with all of your AEP requirements and conditions. If you have successfully completed the AEP, then the charges will be dismissed. Pursuant to Connecticut’s Erasure Statute (CGS 52-142a), once dismissed, and with respect to these DWI charges only, you may swear under oath that you have no criminal record of a DUI / DWI and have in fact never been arrested for DWI / DUI. Please contact us with any specific erasure-related questions, and let us know if we can help you scrub the internet of all reports and records of your Connecticut DWI / DUI arrest.
Contact an Experienced DUI / DWI / BWI 14-227 Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested for a 14-227 DUI / DWI in Stamford, Danbury, Hartford, Bridgeport, Norwalk, or New Haven, or a 15-133 BWI / BUI, contact a DUI attorney today to find out if you are eligible for the Alcohol Education first-time offenders program. The best Connecticut DUI / DWI attorneys focus is on results.