Second Chance for People Facing Their First DUI Charge
While there are other defenses to a DUI charge in Connecticut, the most common approach used by DUI defense lawyers is to get their clients into Connecticut’s Alcohol Education Program (commonly referred to as the AEP or the AE Program). The most important thing to understand about the AEP is that it is NOT guaranteed; it is a privilege, not a right, and working with an experienced DUI attorney is the best way to ensure entry into the program and the benefits it provides.
Basics of the Connecticut Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
The AEP is a diversionary program created to help Connecticut drivers who have been charged with a DUI get a second chance and some relief from the harsh penalties of a DUI conviction. Essentially the defendant of the DUI charge agrees to both an evaluation and to enter into a 10 or 15-week class program. The evaluation determines whether you will be required to take the 10 or 15-week version of the class. In addition to the classes, the DUI defendant will also be required to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel.
A 1st-time DUI conviction would result in a criminal record, possible jail time, license suspension, probation, and significant fines and surcharges. As a result, it is critical to take the Connecticut Alcohol Education Program seriously, as successful completion will save you from a slew of negative consequences.
Application and Entry to the AEP
Getting into the Alcohol Education Program is neither easy nor guaranteed. To work with Edward Vioni, or to learn more about how an experienced Connecticut DUI lawyer can help you enter into the AEP, contact our office today.
Step 1 – Eligibility & Application
Before you can apply you need to make sure that your situation and charges are eligible for the program. The charges that are eligible include:
- standard DUI charge (C.G.S. § 14-227a)
- under 21 DUI charge (C.G.S. § 14-227g)
- DUI with a minor in your vehicle (CGS § 14-227m)
- Boating While Intoxicated (“BWI / “BUI”) (C.G.S. § 15-133).
- DUI while driving a school bus (CGS § 14-227(n)(a)(1)or(2))
To be considered for the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program, you must not have a prior record of a DUI conviction in this state or a comparable offense in any other state. Furthermore, anyone convicted of similar offenses (below) is ineligible for the program under CGS 54-56g.
It should be noted that you are NOT eligible for the AEP if:
- You were charged while operating a commercial motor vehicle or holding a license to operate a commercial motor vehicle
- You have used or applied for an AEP in the past 10 years (or a similar program in another state).
- You have been convicted of a DUI or DWI charge in Connecticut or any other state.
If it is determined that you are eligible, you apply and the court will set a hearing date for your application. At the application hearing, you will pay a $200 application fee and set a date for the eligibility screen interview.
Step 2 – The Screening Interview
The main function of the screening interview is to provide some basic information so that the facility can determine whether you will be taking the 10-week or 15-week program. Working with an experienced DUI attorney can ensure that you are prepared for the types of questions that you will be asked and know how to answer them.
The evaluation is conducted at the facilities of a DMHAS contractor who charges a flat fee to offer recommendations on the degree of treatment required for your AE program. It is strongly advised that you consult and prepare for this evaluation with your criminal defense attorney. The evaluator may propose a 10- or 15-session alcohol intervention program class, or if they believe your case requires intense treatment, they may suggest an intensive outpatient program or another more intensive treatment program.
Step 3 – The Court Hearing
At this hearing, you will find out if you are eligible for the AE Program. If it is determined that you are rejected from the program, the State’s Attorney’s Office will give an explanation as to why. Generally speaking, the prosecution tends to object to applications where the following situations are present:
- Unusually High BAC Readings
- High speeds or generally Reckless Driving Behavior During Your Arrest
- If an accident was involved, any property damage or personal injury was caused by the accident.
- Aggressive or generally difficult behavior toward the arresting officers
If you are accepted into the program and successfully complete it (which means arriving, on time to all 10 or 15 required classes as well as completing the MADD panel) you may be able to have your DUI kept off of your record. That said, that court also has a fairly wide discretion to require additional community service, license suspension, or other fines even after successful completion of the program.
Contact a Connecticut DUI Attorney Today
While there are no guarantees about the final outcome, getting into Connecticut’s Alcohol Education Program is typically your best bet if you have been charged with a DUI. If you have additional questions about the Alcohol Education Program and how it could minimize the impact your Connecticut DUI charge has on your day-to-day life, contact a Connecticut DUI Lawyer.