ARD is a second chance program for first offenders of non-violent crimes. If you are admitted into the program, the charge is held in abeyance. If you successfully complete the program, the charge is dismissed. ARD usually involves payment of fines and costs, and may include other activities. For example, if you are involved in DUI, you may be required to attend classes about alcohol and safe driving.
ARD is short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, and most people associate it with drunk driving (DUI/DWI/DAI). You usually have some of the same conditions to complete while in the ARD program as you would if you pleaded guilty, but you avoid the conviction and face fewer penalties if you successfully complete the program. In some counties like Allegheny County, your charges are automatically expunged after you successfully complete the program, but the district attorney's office is allowed to keep your name in its ARD records to determine your eligibility for ARD in the future. It is a program for first-time offenders, but it is possible to get ARD a second time in certain circumstances in some counties in Pennsylvania. There are some circumstances where ARD is prohibited by statute, e.g., driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance with a passenger under 14 years old in your motor vehicle. Each county's district attorney's office can place their own eligibility requirements for the ARD program so long as they do not abuse their discretion.