When a domestic dispute gets out of hand, you could end up facing Connecticut domestic violence charges. A fight with your spouse doesn’t have to turn into a misdemeanor, or even felony conviction. For first-time offenders, the Connecticut Family Violence Education Program (FVEP) can be a way out of legal trouble that doesn’t result in a conviction on your record.
When you are arrested for a domestic violence crime, you may be facing a variety of family violence charges. Under Connecticut law, domestic violence isn’t its own crime. Instead it is a label that attaches to misdemeanor or felony charges where the victim is a part of your family or household. Family violence laws usually don’t apply to verbal fights or harassing words, but when things turn physical the resulting domestic violence conviction could cloud your criminal history and cause problems for you and your family for years to come.
Recognizing the impact of a family violence conviction, the Connecticut legislature created the Family Violence Education Program, among other domestic violence offender programs. As the name suggests, the aim of the FVEP is to teach defendants alternatives to domestic violence and avoid future incidents. As a “diversionary” program, if you apply, are accepted to, and successfully complete the FVEP, your case will be dismissed and you will have no conviction on your record.
Not every person accused of domestic violence in Fairfield County, Connecticut will qualify for the state’s FVEP. First, the prosecutor must have brought charges against you for a “family violence crime” specifically. Not all family violence crimes are eligible. The most severe charges -- Class A, Class B, Class C and unclassified felonies with prison sentences of at least 10 years -- are ineligible. Even Class D felonies and unclassified felonies with sentences of more than 5 years require a special showing of “good cause.”
Next, it must be your first run in with domestic violence crimes. You must not have a previous conviction for a family violence crime or have participated in the FVEP before. Also, you may not have applied the related Connecticut Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (AR Program) to a family violence crime in the past.
Even if you meet both criteria, acceptance into the FVEP isn’t automatic. You will need to complete an FVEP application and have your criminal defense attorney advocate for you to be allowed to participate in the Connecticut domestic violence court process and avoid a conviction.
If you and your domestic violence defense attorney decide the FVEP is your best strategy, your lawyer will begin to assemble your application package:
You will be interviewed by a Family Relations Officer, assigned to help the court assess the safety risks related to your application. The officer will also speak to the alleged victim in your case, and will make recommendations to the court about whether to accept your application.
If the FVEP is your best strategy, then you will want to fully cooperate with the family relations officer and answer their questions truthfully. Their goal is to help you rehabilitate yourself and facilitate healing family relationships. However, should your application be denied or if you fail to complete the program, those statements could be used against you in your trial later on, so it is important to assess your chances with your attorney before you start the FVEP application process.
After the Family Relations Officer’s interviews are complete, the court will schedule a hearing to review your FVEP application. The prosecutor will have the first word, either objecting to, consenting to, or taking no position on your FVEP application. If your criminal defense attorney has negotiated with the prosecutor ahead of time, his or her consent can go a long way to getting your FVEP application granted. The hearing can also include testimony by the:
Based on their testimony and the advocacy of your criminal defense attorney, the judge will either grant or deny your application. The order granting your application will set your case for dismissal in 6 months to two years. It will include conditions the judge feels are necessary to protect the victim’s safety such as:
These conditions will stay in place until you finish the program and get your case dismissed, and your success depends on you following every letter of the order. So it is important for your attorney to advocate against the most burdensome of these requirements.
Once the application is granted, your case will be referred to the Connecticut domestic violence court so you can complete the Family Violence Education Program. The program costs $300 (in addition to the application fee) and includes 9 consecutive weekly 60 to 90 minute domestic violence classes. Your successful completion of the FVEP requires you to attend every class, so it must be a top priority. If you fail to complete the classes, or violate some other court requirement, you will be terminated from the program and you and your attorney will have to go back to court to defend against a conviction using all the evidence the prosecutor was able to gather along the way.
Those 9 classes likely will not take the entire 6 to 24 months, so you may find yourself waiting for your dismissal date. If you have met all the court’s requirements and successfully finished the classes, you may be able to ask the court for early dismissal of your domestic violence criminal charges, have the restrictions lifted, and go back to your life with a clean criminal record.
At the Lebedevitch Law Firm, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitch knows how a domestic violence crime arrest can spiral into a life-changing conviction. He also knows how the use of the FVEP and other domestic violence offender programs can help save your reputation and your criminal record. Contact us for a free consultation to talk to Stephen and see if you qualify for the FVEP today.