If you find yourself facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania for the first time, you may have heard about the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of ARD, including its eligibility criteria, benefits, downsides, and the crucial steps involved in the process.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, is a program designed for first-time offenders in Pennsylvania. Successfully completing ARD allows for the dismissal of your case and the potential expungement of your criminal record. However, it’s important to note that expungement doesn’t mean complete erasure, as certain entities such as law enforcement agencies and state licensing boards may still have access to your record.
To be eligible for ARD, individuals must meet specific criteria outlined in the Pennsylvania Code. The program primarily targets first offenders deemed suitable for treatment and rehabilitation rather than strict punishment. While the vehicle code generally allows for acceptance into ARD for a first offense DUI, there are exceptions, such as previous completion of ARD for a DUI, a DUI conviction in the past 10 years, accidents involving injuries or fatalities, and cases with passengers under 14 years old.
Is ARD Right for You?
Choosing ARD as an option requires careful consideration. At The McShane Firm, we approach ARD as a last resort, not a first choice. Your attorney should thoroughly evaluate your case, considering all possible defenses and outcomes before determining if ARD is the right fit. It’s a crucial decision, and a comprehensive case evaluation is essential before using this “get out of jail free card.”
Benefits of ARD:
Successful completion of the ARD program leads to the dismissal of charges and a clean record, allowing you to legally state that you have never been convicted of a crime. ARD is not an admission of guilt, and recent changes in the law prevent its use as a prior conviction for subsequent DUI arrests. Additionally, ARD often results in a reduced license suspension in DUI cases, and supervision is generally lighter than traditional probation.
Downsides of ARD:
While ARD offers several benefits, it can also be expensive. In addition to fines and costs, individuals must pay a specific ARD fee. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders may face a one-year disqualification, even without a regular driver’s license suspension. Moreover, successful completion of ARD doesn’t guarantee complete erasure, as certain records, particularly for DUI cases, may remain accessible to law enforcement and state licensing agencies.
The ARD Process:
If you decide that ARD is the right option for you, an application is submitted to the District Attorney’s Office. Once accepted, ARD court is scheduled, marking the beginning of your ARD probation. Meeting specific requirements, such as paying the ARD fee and completing a CRN evaluation, is crucial before your court date to avoid exclusion from the program.
Conditions of ARD:
Once enrolled in ARD, the court outlines specific conditions to be completed within the program’s term, typically ranging from 6 to 24 months. These conditions may include community service, drug and alcohol evaluation, attendance at Alcohol Highway Safety School (for DUI cases), and more. Successful completion of all requirements allows for the expungement of your case.
ARD can be a valuable opportunity for first-time offenders in Pennsylvania, offering a chance for rehabilitation and a clean record. However, the decision to pursue ARD should be made with careful consideration, and a knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the process. Understanding the costs, benefits, and potential downsides of ARD is essential to making an informed decision about your legal future.