- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday clarified the requirements for completing accelerated rehabilitation, a probation program for first-time offenders that results in charges being dropped.

The court ruled that a defendant cannot use the special probation to wipe away a conviction if he or she is found guilty of earlier crimes while in the program.

The decision came in the case of Justin Kevalis, a 30-year-old Ansonia man who was granted accelerated rehabilitation after being charged in 2009 with interfering with a Bridgeport police officer. Under the terms of his accelerated rehabilitation, once Kevalis had successfully completed his probation, he could return to court and have the charge dismissed.

But when he went before a judge in January 2012, prosecutors objected to wiping the charge from his record. They pointed out that while on probation, Kevalis had pleaded guilty and received suspended sentences for older, unrelated charges of drunken driving and drug possession.

The sentencing judge agreed, and ruled that those convictions meant Kevalis had not successfully completed accelerated rehabilitation.

Kevalis’ attorneys unsuccessfully argued in their appeal that the court was aware of the other pending charges when it granted accelerated rehabilitation. They contended that because the other crimes were not committed while he was in the program, under standard rules of probation, they could not be considered violations.

Kevalis also argued that since entering the program, he had “shaped up his act.”

But prosecutors argued that the whole purpose of the accelerated rehabilitation statute was to benefit defendants who had made a single mistake and had an otherwise unblemished record.

The high court agreed in a unanimous ruling.

“We conclude that accelerated rehabilitation is intended to allow an offender to maintain a clean criminal record, not to eliminate one of multiple convictions that a person might receive,” Justice Carmen Espinosa wrote on behalf of the court.

“Because a conviction obtained during the period of a defendant’s participation in the program is contrary to the purpose of the accelerated rehabilitation statute, a defendant cannot be deemed to have satisfactorily completed the program,” she added.

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