Being charged with a crime can feel like your life is unraveling. It might be possible to take advantage of special programs designed for specific offenders so they can avoid harsh penalties and get their lives back on track.
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is designed for people charged with low-level crimes often, but not always, related to drugs and alcohol. The program focuses on rehabilitating offenders likely to respond positively to treatment rather than punishment. Generally, the ARD program is open to non-violent, first-time offenders. However, programs are run at the county level, and the specific criteria you must meet might depend on what county you live in. To get into the program, we need to work with the District Attorney’s Office handling your case, and a judge might need to approve the case. If you successfully finish the program, your charges might be dismissed, and you can walk away with a clean slate.
Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you apply for the ARD program if you are charged with a drug-related offense. For a free assessment of your case, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
What is Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program?
The ARD program in Pennsylvania is an alternative method of handling drug cases and often benefits defendants. The program focuses more on treating defendants rather than penalizing them. Not every defendant may get into the program, and those charged with more serious or violent crimes are less likely to be approved for the ARD program. Our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers can help determine if you are a good candidate for the program.
The program works by setting aside your charges until you complete the program. Defendants are usually given a specific period of time in which they must complete the program. If they succeed, their charges can be dismissed. If they do not succeed, their charges may be reinstated, and they might face harsher penalties like fines and incarceration. Program requirements often involve treatment, counseling, community service, and more.
Generally, defendants can only go through the ARD program once. Even if you have a clean criminal record but were previously allowed to enter the ARD program for a prior charge, you cannot apply for ARD for a subsequent charge.
Can Everyone Participate in the Pennsylvania ARD Program?
While the Pennsylvania ARD program presents an amazing opportunity for individuals who have been charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania, not everyone will be permitted to participate. In order to enroll, both you and the underlying offense itself will need to meet certain eligibility requirements.
ARD is most commonly associated with Driving Under the Influence, but can also extend to other offenses. Provided you satisfy the appropriate eligibility criteria, you can also participate in Pennsylvania ARD with a conviction of retail theft, simple assault, or other minor offenses.
Even if you are unable to participate in ARD, you may qualify for alternative diversionary programs, such as Philadelphia’s AMP (Accelerated Misdemeanor Program).
Once you’re enrolled in the program, you will need to consistently comply with certain rules and requirements. If you fail to comply with the program’s terms, you could lose special privileges or even be ejected from the program altogether. Keep in mind that if you are removed from the ARD program, your case will be returned for trial and you will face the original penalties, including heavy fines, incarceration, and the creation of a criminal record.
Eligibility Criteria for Pennsylvania’s ARD Program
Since ARD programs are run at the county level, you must check with the authorities in your home county to determine the specific eligibility requirements for the ARD program. In general, eligible defendants must have a clean criminal record. This means they are first-time offenders and have not been put through the ARD program previously. Sometimes, exceptions are made if a defendant has a very limited criminal record, but this is not guaranteed. You can talk to our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers about how to get into the program.
Additionally, most programs want defendants to be charged with non-violent offenses. For example, someone facing their first DUI might be eligible for ARD if nobody was harmed during the DUI. Defendants facing violent felony charges are usually ineligible for the ARD program.
Simply satisfying the eligibility criteria for the ARD program in your county does not guarantee that you will be accepted. Prosecutors usually get input from law enforcement officials who worked on your case and victims affected by the alleged offense. Getting an attorney to help you advocate for yourself during this process is important so you can get into the ARD program and avoid having charges on your record.
Is the ARD Program Mandatory for a First-Time DUI Offense in PA?
Neither a judge nor a defense attorney can force a case into ARD against the prosecution’s wishes. Although a defense attorney cannot force a case into ARD, strong and consistent advocacy can sometimes push a DA to admit an otherwise marginal case.
Because admission to diversionary programs can be so valuable, it is paramount that a defendant who might be eligible for ARD or another diversionary program have excellent counsel who knows how to comply with all rules and procedures and can persuasively advocate for a client whose case may be a close call.
Our legal systems are not perfect. In any system, there is always the risk of an unjust result at trial. Trials can also be very stressful and expensive. Therefore, even the innocent have good reason to want ARD in many cases.
How Do I Get Into Pennsylvania’s ARD Program?
Getting into the program is easier said than done. Since the program is designed for non-violent, first-time offenders, defendants who do not meet these requirements must be weeded out. First, our Philadelphia driving with a suspended license lawyer can help you fill out any necessary application materials. Usually, applications must be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office of the country where you wish to participate in an ARD program.
As mentioned before, prosecutors will discuss your case with law enforcement and victims to determine if you should be allowed to take advantage of the ARD program. We can help you convince prosecutors that you will respond well to treatment and rehabilitation, and that legal penalties like jail time are unnecessary. For example, we can explain to the prosecutor that you want to acknowledge your mistakes and need treatment rather than punishment.
In many counties, applications for the ARD program must be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office before your preliminary hearing. If all parties involved are on board, you will waive your preliminary hearing, and you may be enrolled in the program.
Benefits of Completing Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program
The ARD program comes with various benefits for defendants, making it much preferable to a more traditional criminal trial and sentencing. First and foremost, completing the program often allows participants to have their charges dismissed. A total dismissal of charges means you can walk away from the situation with no criminal record to hold you back.
Another important benefit is the treatment aspect of the program. Many defendants want to participate in ARD because they want treatment for their underlying substance abuse problems, anger management issues, or some other problem. Through the ARD program, many participants can get effective treatment and counseling and are less likely to re-offend.
In DUI cases involving drugs or alcohol, the ARD program often helps participants hold onto their driver’s licenses. If their DUI charges are dismissed, their driver’s licenses will not be suspended or revoked. While losing your license might seem relatively small compared to jail time, it can be very disruptive to your life. People need a license to go to work, school, and court. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can assist you in your application process and work to get you into the ARD program in your county.
Are There Other Rehab Programs for First-Time DUI Charges?
Other diversionary programs exist in certain Pennsylvania counties as well, and operate under names, rules and procedures specific to that county. For example, many counties have an ARD-type diversionary program that is specifically for people who are facing charges and penalties for a first DUI in Pennsylvania and meet specific conditions. Philadelphia currently has a new diversionary program for people who are charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Philadelphia also has the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP) for people who meet certain conditions and are facing certain misdemeanor charges. Some people who enter AMP have the option to have their cases dropped and records expunged while others do not depending on their record and the nature of the case.
The best of these programs, like ARD, when successfully completed result in no conviction, no finding by the court that the defendant did anything wrong, no plea of guilty or no contest, and eventually no criminal record in any available database because they permit or require expungement of all paperwork and electronic data about the case.
Other good, but less desirable ARD programs require some sort of a temporary guilty plea that is later erased upon completion of the program. These programs often do not result in a trial if a defendant fails the program’s requirements-they simply result in conviction based upon the temporary guilty plea being made permanent.
It is essential to note that admission into the ARD Program and other diversionary programs is entirely at the discretion of the local prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania. The characteristics of the cases admitted frequently change, often for political reasons or simply because different prosecutors are making the decisions.
How Our Attorneys Have Helped First-Time DUI Offenders in Pennsylvania
A graduate student suffered a head injury while intoxicated and was accused of Aggravated Assault on two EMT’s and a police officer in three separate criminal cases arising from the same incident. After careful accumulation of evidence, and one rejection from ARD, Lloyd Long succeeded in getting their client admitted to the ARD Program, which was successfully completed.
In another case, a client was accused of Burglary, Aggravated Assault and Conspiracy after entering the alleged victim’s house and allegedly beating the victim while he was tied to a chair. Careful advocacy persuaded the prosecution that the defendant had been persuaded to go along with another defendant based upon a false story about their purpose and permission to enter the building. ARD was obtained and successfully completed.
In another case, a manager for an NBA player was arrested going through airport security because he had a handgun in his backpack. Federal charges were avoided. The defendant then succeeded in obtaining ARD in state court due to the investigation of available video and government documents showing permission to carry a firearm in another state to establish that the defendant had forgotten the gun was in his backpack when he hurriedly left home on his way to an early flight.
Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help
If you are facing criminal charges for a non-violent, drug-related offense, our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you try to get into the ARD program. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.