Driving under the influence is one of the most commonly charged offenses in Pennsylvania and is punishable by jail time, fines, and a license suspension. However, in some cases, a person charged with DUI can avoid jail time by qualifying for and completing the state-run Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. Although not all applicants are admitted, those who successfully complete the program are eligible to have their criminal record expunged.
To begin the application process a defendant must submit a county-specific ARD application to the District Attorney’s office on or before the date of his or her preliminary hearing. The application must also include a cover letter explaining the circumstances of the case. Admission into the ARD program is only granted to those who have a limited criminal record and are being charged with a minor offense. The court may also take into account the specific circumstances of the offense before making a decision. For example, defendants can be denied for any of the following reasons:
- The existence of a prior conviction;
- A passenger under the age of 14 years old was in the car when the defendant was arrested for DUI;
- The defendant caused an accident that resulted in an injury;
- The person’s license was suspended at the time of the arrest; and
- The defendant did not have car insurance.
If accepted into the program, the defendant’s case will be put on hold for a specific time period, usually around one year. During that time, the defendant must adhere to certain requirements, as outlined in 234 Pa. Code Rule 316, which could include any of the following:
- Completing community service hours;
- Completing an alcohol-safe driving course;
- Completing drug and alcohol counseling;
- Agreeing to the suspension of his or her driver’s license;
- Agreeing not to use alcohol or non-prescription drugs;
- Paying the cost of prosecution and ARD supervision;
- Paying restitution;
- Waiving the right to a speedy trial; and
- Not committing additional criminal offenses while enrolled in the ARD program.
If a defendant violates any of the conditions, he or she will be removed from the program and tried in court for the initial charges. The successful completion of the program, on the other hand, can result in a defendant’s charge being dismissed and even expunged from his or her criminal record. However, if a person who successfully completes the ARD program is later convicted of a second DUI, he or she will automatically be considered a second offender, which can result in more severe penalties.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The ARD program offers a unique option to first time offenders charged with DUI or another minor offense. However, just because a person is eligible for the program does not mean he or she should automatically apply. If you live in Pennsylvania and were recently charged with a minor criminal offense, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim by calling (215) 486-0123 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in Pennsylvania law and will be able to advise you on the best course of action.