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.
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.
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.