First-Time Connecticut Domestic Violence Offenses
If you have been summoned to Connecticut Superior Court for the first time for a domestic violence crime arrest in Greenwich, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan or Stamford, then you should know you have many options in fighting your case and resolving it without a criminal conviction. The last thing you need is a permanent criminal record as a result of your domestic violence arrest. A criminal conviction history can affect your ability to find employment, travel abroad, obtain insurance or a mortgage, or even find rental housing.
With the proper legal assistance, you can get your first-time Connecticut domestic violence offenses dismissed in a much shorter amount of time than if you went through the court process alone. One popular defense strategy that some of the best Connecticut domestic violence lawyers will sometimes seek on behalf of their clients is the Family Violence Education Program for certain domestic violence crimes such as 53a-182 Disorderly Conduct, Assault in the Third Degree per 53a-61, Violation of a Criminal Protective Order 53a-223, Violation of a Civil Restraining Order 53a-223b, and certain Strangulation Crimes under 53a-64.
Family Violence Education Program in Connecticut
The Family Violence Education Program—also called “FVEP”—is one of several Pre-Trial Superior Court Diversionary Programs which essentially “diverts” your domestic violence charges off the prosecution track. If you are granted the Family Violence Education Program and you successfully complete all of the court-ordered conditions of the program, then the court will dismiss your charges. However, as any attorney will tell you, getting the program is not automatic. Your application must be carefully prepared and packaged for the domestic violence court judge. Moreover, in many cases, your local lawyer should also be prepared for strong and aggressive resistance from the victim of the Connecticut domestic violence offense and the prosecutor, even for first-time cases. And to make it even more complicated, you need to be vigilant about modifying and terminating the domestic violence criminal protective / restraining orders hanging over your head during the entire court process and pendency of the Family Violence Education Program.
If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. There are many moving parts to a Connecticut domestic violence arrest—and it is a good idea to consult with a top Danbury, Stamford or Greenwich criminal lawyer to understand this process so you can position yourself for the best results possible: a complete dismissal of your case.
In an effort to help you through your initial questions about a domestic violence arrest for a first time offender, we have tried to answer some of the more frequently asked questions we have fielded from our domestic violence clients. However, it is best to consult with a top Stamford criminal attorney before appearing in court. The Connecticut domestic violence court process moves swiftly, and in many cases, severely. They do not take chances when it comes to allegations of violence in the home so be on guard, pro-active, and contact a top domestic violence lawyer attorney right away.
Am I Eligible for the Family Violence Education Program?
Whether or not you are eligible for the Family Violence Education Program (“FVEP”) depends on several factors. First, your case must be assigned to the Connecticut domestic violence court docket—specifically, your domestic violence arrest must qualify under Connecticut law as a “family violence crime.”
Under the Connecticut penal code, “family violence” means a violent incident resulting in harm, or an act of threatened violence, between family or household members. (Note that verbal abuse or argument usually does not qualify). “Family or household members” include the following: spouses or former spouses, parents, children, blood relatives, in-laws, roommates, people who have had children together, and people in a dating or sexual relationship.
Once you have determined that your case qualifies for domestic violence court, you must also satisfy the following criteria at the time of your application into the Family Violence Education Program:
- You do not have a previous conviction for a family violence crime.
- You have never availed yourself of the Family Violence Education Program, nor are you enrolled in the FVEP at the time of your FVEP application.
- You have not used the Connecticut accelerated rehabilitation program (the “AR Program”) for a family violence crime.
- You are not charged with a Class A, Class B, Class C felony, or an unclassified felony which carries a prison sentence of at least 10 years. (Note that if you are a charged with a Class D Felony or an unclassified felony carrying a jail sentence of over 5 years, then you must show “good cause” to the Court to grant you the FVEP).
Assuming you meet all of the above criteria, then you can submit your written application for the Family Violence Education Program. Your top Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan criminal lawyer can assist you in filling out your application that you will submit to the Clerk of Court when your case is called during the domestic violence court docket in any of the Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, or Bridgeport domestic violence courts. After your application is submitted, the domestic violence judge will schedule a hearing on your FVEP application in 3 to 4 weeks, and the victim in your case will be notified and given the chance to heard on your application.
Can I Automatically Get the Family Violence Education Program?
No. The domestic violence judge must conduct a hearing on your FVEP application. During this hearing, the best Connecticut attorneys will frequently offer a comprehensive and compelling application package to the domestic violence judge. Character reference letters, counseling and treatment letters, DCF input, and other documents will be submitted on your behalf to help the judge better understand who you are—both personally and professionally. As of the hearing date, the judge’s only impression of you is what the judge is reading in the police reports, which are often slanted and biased against you. So work closely with your top Connecticut domestic violence lawyers to provide them with the materials they need to give you the best chances of getting the Connecticut Family Violence Education Program.
Other individuals and court officers will be given the opportunity to speak at your FVEP hearing. First, the domestic violence prosecutor will state their position on the record: often either communicating an objection, a consent, or not taking a position on your FVEP application. The domestic violence prosecutor will then communicate the alleged Victim’s position on your application, and sometimes will even have the Victim or the Victim’s lawyer argue their position and thoughts directly to the judge. Finally, DCF or a Family Relations Officer can also each weigh in with the Court and state their position in open court. Sometimes they will support your FVEP application; other times they will either object or ask for strict and onerous conditions to be applied to the program (such as alcohol and drug counseling or texting, or GPS ankle bracelet monitoring). Regardless, it’s very clear that if you’re not prepared for this hearing, you can feel like you are outnumbered—all the more reason to have a top Norwalk, Danbury or Stamford domestic violence criminal lawyer by your side.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will grant or deny your application. If denied, then your Connecticut lawyer will have to take your domestic violence case to trial or attempt to resolve your case by way of a plea bargain. If your application is granted, however, then the domestic violence judge will order you into the Family Violence Education Program, and set down your case for a dismissal date that is as short as 6 months (or as long as 2 years) from your hearing date. The length of the Family Violence Program is critical for many reasons. First, the criminal protective / restraining orders remain in effect for the duration of the program. Second, your Connecticut domestic violence arrest charges remain on your criminal record until dismissal, making it difficult to apply for jobs, housing and insurance. As a result, your top domestic violence lawyer must argue aggressively for an early Family Violence Education Program dismissal date.
Do I Have to Cooperate with the Family Relations Officers during My Domestic Violence Case?
You should. During the course of the Connecticut domestic violence arrest / FVEP application and eligibility process, you will be asked to meet with an officer from the Office of Family Relations. This agency assists the Court with assessing the safety risks of everyone involved in your Connecticut domestic violence arrest. These officers also make recommendations to the Court on whether you are a suitable candidate for the Family Violence Education Program. They regularly conduct interviews with you and any alleged victims in your case. Generally it is beneficial to your case to work with the Office of Family Relations, as their mission is to rehabilitate you and facilitate the healing process after a first-time domestic violence arrest. Remember, however, that anything you say to the Family Relations Officers can be used against you in your criminal case, so it’s important to consult your top Connecticut criminal lawyer prior to meeting with the Family Relations Officers.
How Much Does the Family Violence Education Program Cost?
$300. A $100 application fee is also required.
If I Take the Family Violence Education Classes, How Long Will It Take To Get My Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed?
You will be required to attend 9 consecutive weekly group domestic violence classes, which each last 60 to 90 minutes. You will not be permitted to miss a class or else you will be terminated from the program.
At the time you are granted the program, the Norwalk, Danbury, Bridgeport or Stamford domestic violence judge will set a dismissal date that is usually between 6 months and 2 years from the hearing date. Once you finish your domestic violence group classes, you should consult your top Stamford, Norwalk or Danbury lawyer to determine whether you qualify for an early dismissal of your first-time domestic violence charges.
Criminal Protective & Restraining Orders During the Family Violence Education Program
All domestic violence arrests require the issuance of criminal protective and restraining orders during the entire pendency of your case. The protective orders come in 3 forms: (1) the most restrictive “Full No Contact” protective / restraining order, (2) the next restrictive “Full / Residential Stay-Away” protective order, and (3) the least restrictive “Partial” or “Limited” Protective order, prohibiting you from assaulting, threatening or harassing the protected person. These restraining orders can cause havoc in your life: they trigger additional screening and questioning at routine police traffic stops and border crossings, and they hang over your head during your entire Connecticut domestic violence case, oftentimes giving a victim additional ammunition to try and get you arrested if you are engaged in a adversarial divorce or breakup. That’s why it is critical for you to try and get your domestic violence arrest dismissed as quickly as possible—not only to get your charges dismissed and erased, but also to have the domestic violence judge terminate these criminal protective orders forever.
Scrubbing the Internet: Removing Your Online Domestic Violence Arrest Records from the Internet
The Mark Sherman Law firm stands out among its competitors in leading the charge against the continued online publication of online arrest records. We see this problem of clients’ online arrest records often remaining on the internet after their domestic violence arrests have been dismissed and erased through the use of the Family Violence Education Program. Our firm has sued numerous online media companies who have refused to remove our client’s arrest records in their police blotters, even after our clients’ Stamford and Greenwich domestic violence arrests have been dismissed, and all of their arrest records have been erased and expunged. So if you have been arrested for a Stamford domestic violence crime, or any other crime in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, and Darien, and your case has been dismissed but is still being reported online, call a Mark Sherman Law internet scrubbing lawyer today to learn how we can help you.
Victim Representation in Family Violence Education Program Cases
Finally, we are often hired to represent Stamford and Greenwich domestic violence victims who ask us to aggressively advocate for their safety and concerns in domestic violence court. Victim representation is challenging—sometimes victims hire us to argue for the most restrictive protective orders and the lengthiest periods of jail, probation or counseling and intervention against the defendants. Other times, however, the healing process is well underway and a victim wants us to work with a defendant and their Stamford domestic violence lawyer to argue for an immediate end to the court proceedings so the family can move on and put this Stamford, Darien, New Canaan or Greenwich domestic violence arrest behind them. In many cases, victims need their spouses employed and not tied up with court appearances and anger management classes. No matter what their position is, Connecticut domestic violence victims have a right to be heard at a Family Violence Education Program hearing, and we are often hired to assist these victims with ensuring that their voices are heard loud and clear by the domestic violence judge and prosecutor.