Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or the “ARD Program”, is a pre-trial intervention program that is designed to divert first-time, non-violent offenders from the criminal justice process. Many people who apply for admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in PA are people who have been charged with Driving Under the Influence/DUI.
The Pennsylvania ARD Program is designed for citizens who are charged with a non-violent offense, such as DUI or Retail Theft (shoplifting). The DA’s Office will consider someone for admission into the ARD Program if they become convinced that the applicant is unlikely to re-offend and has positive characteristics such as a good job, family support or a history of charitable activities. In other words, ARD is for good people who find themselves charged with a non-violent crime.
ARD — Recognizing That Good People Can Make Mistakes
The ARD Program is designed to create awareness of the dangers of drunk driving — or even mildly impaired driving — without forcing good, law-abiding persons to spend nights in jail or end up with a criminal conviction. The conditions of ARD are intended to prevent a repeat occurrence by “teaching a lesson” without ruining lives. Basically, the ARD Program is a recognition that good people can make non-violent mistakes and such people deserve a second chance at a clean criminal record.
The ARD Program suspends the criminal justice process while the person is on ARD probation and complies with certain conditions. If a person successfully completes the ARD program, the charges are legally dismissed.
PA ARD Process
To be admitted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program, on a DUI or any other criminal charge in PA, a person must be recommended by the district attorney’s office. A judge may not admit a person into the ARD program on his or her own. After the DA’s office recommends someone for admission into the ARD program, a judge decides, at a hearing, whether to accept the recommendation.
A person makes application for admission into the ARD program by submitting an application to the DA’s office prior to any application deadlines. The DA’s office then makes a decision whether to recommend a person for admission into the ARD program. For the most part, this decision cannot be appealed so it is important to get information regarding the client’s good character to the DA’s Office at the earliest opportunty.
It is important to note that the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program is a pre-trial program, meaning that a person must apply for admission into the ARD program prior to trial. If a person chooses to exercise his or her right to a trial and is convicted, that person may not then be admitted into the ARD program. Accordingly, it is important to consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney in the early stages of your case to ensure you understand your rights, and to carefully evaluate any potential trial issues in the early stages of the criminal justice process and before the deadline for applying for admission into the ARD program.
PA DUI ARD laws — Seeking Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program on a DUI Charge
You and your DUI criminal lawyer should carefully evaluate whether admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is truly the best option. Attorneys who automatically assume a client should apply for ARD, without evaluating the strength of the Commonwealth of PA’s case, can do their clients a disservice.
There are many factors — including the strengths and weaknesses of the Commonwealth’s case — that you and your criminal defense attorney should carefully consider in making this determination. Any decision to apply for admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program should only be made after a full case evaluation and comprehensive discussion regarding the available options, risks and potential consequences of every course of action.
If the prosecution has a strong case for DUI, and the person may qualify for admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, the person may decide to seek admission into the ARD program. There are certainly many benefits to the ARD program as opposed to a DUI conviction. These benefits include:
- No jail time. A person who is accepted into the ARD program in PA avoids mandatory minimum prison sentences which accompany most DUI convictions.
- Reduced license suspension. People who are admitted into the ARD program will have a DUI license suspension that is far less than the one-year PA license suspension that accompanies most DUI convictions. In Montgomery County, PA, people represented by a lawyer may apply for the “ARD Fast Track” program, which can result in a PA license suspension of as little as one or two months.
- No conviction: ARD is a pretrial program meaning that as long as you complete the program, you never reach the point of entering a guilty plea or going to trial.
- Expungement of criminal charges. People who successfully complete all the terms and conditions of the ARD program in PA are eligible to have all records of the arrest and ARD disposition expunged (destroyed) from PA government agency files and databanks.
The PA DUI laws allow District Attorney’s Offices to have their own unique criteria and conditions for admission into an ARD program. It is important to understand that DUI cases that may qualify for ARD in one county might not for another.
Drunk Driving Accidents
For individuals charged with DUI following a drunk driving accident with injuries or property damage, he or she may not be entitled to admission into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. In such cases, it is critically important to retain an experienced Lower Merion Township DUI defense lawyer.
Expungement of DUI/ARD Dispositions
People who successfully complete the ARD program in PA are usually able to get their record expunged. However this does not happen automatically. Most people decide to hire a DUI Expungement lawyer to make sure the expungment process is completed correctly.
In this day and age, virtually every job requires a criminal background check. Job applicants are competing with people with clean criminal record. If you have something on your criminal record — even if is is minor such as an ARD disposition — it puts you at a disadvantage. If you are able to get a criminal record expunged, you should abolutely do so.
The expungement process involves filing a petition in the county court. The petition is seeking a court order requiring all agencies that have a record of the incident to destroy their records and delete all information from databases. The order should provide these agencies must send written notification to the expungement attorney that all such information has been expunged.
Expunging Criminal Records — Following Up
It is important to be careful in hiring an expungement lawyer. Some lawyers work to obtain the court order but then do not aggressively follow up with these agencies to make sure they have fully expunged the records. This can completely defeat the purpose. The reality is that a court order means little if the record itself is not expunged. And police and government agencies often are more likely to comply with a court order if a law office is following up and ensuring that the records are truly expunged.
Expunging a criminal record should be done the right way — with an aggressive Montgomery County PA expungement lawyer following up to make sure the record is clear. Otherwise, a criminal background check may still uncover the ARD disposition or not guilty result.
This is why it is important to retain an attorney who will put forth the time and effort to make absolutely certain your record is legally and physically expunged. You can count on me, Montgomery County DUI attorney Henry Hilles, to provide the zealous representation your future demands.
I routinely defend those accused of criminal charges, drug crimes, DUI, property crimes, violent crimes and sex offenses throughouth Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This includes Abington, Ambler, Blue Bell, Conshohocken, Haverford, Cheltenham Township, Pottstown, Hatboro, Hatfield, Limerick, Jenkintown, Lansdale, Upper Merion Township, Upper Dublin Township, Lower Providence Township, Upper Moreland Township and Horsham Township.