The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in Pennsylvania offers non-violent first-time offenders an option for expungement of the charges brought against them upon successful completion of rehabilitation and supervision. The idea is to find defendants that are good candidates for rehabilitation and treatment and speed up the process, rather than have the case go through the criminal justice system and unnecessarily spend state resources.
Defendants must apply to the program, agree to certain conditions, and go through a maximum supervision period of two years. Most defendants in the ARD program in Pennsylvania, around 90%, were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
ARD Program in Pennsylvania
What is it?
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a type of pre-trial intervention program in Pennsylvania. Only non-violent offenders who have no or little prior record are eligible.
The goal of the program is two-fold; rehabilitation for the offender and saving state resources by eliminating the costs of trial and other court proceedings while speeding up the process. As such, for a defendant to have their case considered for the ARD program, they waive their right to a preliminary trial.
Goal of the Program
The main goal is that early intervention through the program can help prevent a repeat offense. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania approved this unique program for the state of Pennsylvania to promptly remove cases from the criminal justice system for certain offenders and better utilize state resources when rehabilitation is a better option.
As such, the program is intended to promptly resolve charges brought against persons that are a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Who Qualifies for the ARD Program in PA?
Potential applicants to the ARD program must be first-time offenders with no prior criminal convictions in the past ten years, subject to some exceptions. They also cannot have prior ARD dispositions from going through the ARD program already. Whether someone is successfully admitted to the ARD program in Pennsylvania is ultimately up to the District Attorney, who has broad discretion in this decision.
Defendants charged with a DUI are ineligible under some circumstances. These include:
- Defendants with prior DUI convictions or ARD dispositions in the past 10 years.
- Someone was killed or seriously injured due to the defendant’s actions that led to the current charges for a DUI.
- A person of the age 14 years or younger was in the motor vehicle when the defendant was driving under the influence.
Applying to the ARD Program in PA
Applications and the District Attorney’s Office
Defendants that want to participate in the ARD Program need to submit a written application to the District Attorney’s Office within 30 days of the preliminary hearing.
As it is managed entirely by the Office of the District Attorney, the decision as to who is admitted to the program lies with the District Attorney. The District Attorney has broad discretion over who is successfully admitted to the ARD program.
Even if the defendant is not excluded from eligibility for the program due to prior convictions or other aggravating circumstances, there is no guarantee for admittance. All facts and circumstances contained in the defendant’s application are considered by the District Attorney in determining if an applicant is admitted.
What Applicants Should Expect
Defendants will need to agree to stipulated conditions to obtain acceptance into the program. This may include restitution, participation in a drug and alcohol abuse program, and community service. Other parties involved with the defendant’s case, such as police officers and any victims, will have a chance to comment on the defendant’s ARD application prior to approval.
The defendant does not need to admit to wrongdoing to apply to the ARD program. However, the defendant must plead guilty to any summary offenses, which often include motor vehicle violations. The court may assess costs and assessments for this.
Usually defendants applying to the ARD program seek help from legal counsel to prepare the ARD application and to assist with the admission process. Legal counsel can also assist in determining if applying to the ARD program is best given the individual’s circumstances.
What Happens if the Defendant is Not Accepted to the ARD program
If the defendant’s application to the ARD program is not successful, then the case will proceed to trial.
When a Defendant is in the Program
Once in the ARD program, the defendant is under a period of supervision that is like probation. The maximum period of supervision under the ARD program is two years. During this time, the defendant will undergo drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment and likely complete community service.
If they fail to comply with the stipulations for their admittance into the ARD program, then they will be removed from the program and a case scheduled for the charges brought against them.
After Completing the ARD Program
Defendants that successfully complete the ARD program can, after 30 days of successful completion, petition the court to have the original charges dismissed and for the case to be expunged, or sealed from public records.
However, if the offender does not successfully complete the program or violates its terms, then they will be removed from the ARD program. The case for the original charges will be added back to the court docket for trial. In essence, the charges are only temporarily suspended for the term of the program.
Risks and Benefits of the ARD Program
In addition to possible expungement, a defendant that successfully completes the ARD program will not have a criminal conviction for the crime in which charges were brought. If it involves a motor vehicle, which typically is the case since most ARD program candidates involve DUIs, then the defendant will have a shorter period of driving restrictions than a convicted DUI offender. Moreover, successful applicants in the ARD program can answer “no” on job applications to questions that ask whether they have been convicted of a crime.
A risk about the ARD program is primarily what happens if the defendant later repeats the same offense. The ARD disposition will then be treated as a conviction for purposes of charges brought for the second related offense. If they are convicted for that second offense, then it will count as a “second strike.” This is important when it comes to sentencing and can mean that the defendant is now facing increased mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment.
Are you a Candidate for the ARD Program in PA?
If you are being charged with a DUI and have no prior convictions, then you may want to consider applying to the ARD program. However, you should speak with an attorney to determine the specifics of your situation and whether this is the best option for you.
To find out if you are eligible for participation in the ARD program in Pennsylvania, if you should apply to the ARD program, and how legal counsel can assist with the application process, fill out our contact form. One of our attorneys will review your information and get back to you about your case.