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Diversionary programs help defendants avoid criminal charges

Pretrial diversionary programs for Connecticut defendants benefit the legal system. The programs preserve the time and talents of judges and attorneys, while reducing the prison population. When the alternative programs work as they are designed to do, Windham defendants are less likely to face future criminal charges.

Criminal defense strategies include short-term and long-range goals. With the completion of diversionary rehabilitation, education or treatment programs, a defendant's record may be cleared of charges and the possibility of a conviction and penalties. The programs also provide resources for defendants with substance dependencies, mental health conditions, domestic or school violence issues and other problems.

Acceptance is not guaranteed. Criminal histories and charges for certain crimes disqualify defendants. For instance, the Connecticut Pretrial Alcohol Education Program is open to defendants charged with DUI offenses that do not involve serious injury, but excludes individuals with previous DWI and alcohol-related vehicular manslaughter or assault convictions.

Overall, the state's diversionary programs are designed to give first-time offenders the chance to avoid conviction, jail and a criminal record. The possibility of a criminal record can seem like the least of a defendant's immediate problems, but clearing the slate is important for the future. Background checks including criminal histories influence life-changing decisions made by employers, landlords, colleges and others.

Diversionary program participation is not free. Program-related costs are the responsibility of the defendant. However, some defendants qualify for fee waivers and, in some cases, waivers in exchange for community service.

Program acceptance is the first hurdle. Defendants must be prepared to commit fully to the programs or risk losing the opportunity to be freed from charges. Penalty avoidance cannot occur unless a defendant completes the diversionary program to the court's satisfaction.

Defense attorneys are familiar with the alternative programs in Willimantic County and how they can help defendants. Lawyers can answer questions about diversionary program availability, eligibility, program content, length and fees.

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