ARD: Could this be your "Get out of Jail Free" Card?
What is ARD?ARD is short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. ARD is a pre-trial program designed to divert first-time, non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system. The ARD program suspends the formal criminal prosecution before trial on the condition that you comply with certain conditions, such as making restitution, completing substance abuse treatment, maintaining employment and the like. You need not admit any wrongdoing when applying for ARD; however, you must plead guilty to any summary offenses (which, if you have any such charges, are usually traffic violations). A person who is accepted into an ARD program is placed on supervision, like probation. The Court also may impose costs and assessments, but not a fine. The maximum period of supervision for someone on ARD is two years. If you successfully complete the ARD program, the underlying criminal charges are dismissed and you are entitled to an expungement of the arrest record and of the ARD disposition.
The DA controls eligibilityThe District Attorney controls admission into an ARD program, and has nearly unfettered discretion when formulating polices or criteria to determine which cases will be referred to the ARD program. This discretion is not unlimited, however, and in rare occasions, a District Attorney has been found to have abused that broad grant of discretion when refusing to recommend a particular accused for entry into the ARD program.
The conditions are generally not negotiableThe conditions imposed upon an accused are normally not negotiable and not subject to challenge. You, however, do not have to accept the conditions imposed by the Court. If you reject the conditions which would be imposed upon entry into the ARD program, then you may proceed to trial. The decision whether ARD is right for you is, therefore, something you should discuss at length with your lawyer after careful consideration of the evidence that is expected to be offered against you at trial, together with consideration of the nature and quality of your defenses.
ARD is available before trial onlyIt is also important to recognize that ARD is a pre-trial diversion program, you may not apply for admission into an ARD program after conviction, in lieu of sentencing. Once an accused has gone to trial and is found guilty, admission into an ARD program is no longer an option.
What things prevent ARD?While 75 Pa.C.S.A. A? 1552 requires that each county in Pennsylvania have an ARD program for people accused of DUI, there are a number of things that prohibit someone from being considered for ARD under Pa.C.S.A. A? 3807(a)(2), including:
1) You were found guilty of or accepted ARD of a charge brought under Section 3802 within ten (10) years of the date of the current offense unless the charge was for an ungraded misdemeanor under Section 3802(a)(2) and this was your first offense under Section 3802.
2) An accident occurred in connection with the events surrounding the current DUI offense and an individual other than the accused was killed or suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the accident.
3) There was a passenger under 14 years of age in the motor vehicle the accused was operating.
In addition, there may be other factors that can prevent admission into the ARD program. These factors vary from county to county.
What happens to someone who accepts ARD?If you agree to be accepted into the ARD program, you must agree to be on supervision, much like probation. There will be a number of conditions, or obligations, placed upon you while on supervision. These obligations can include things like meeting regularly with a probation officer, maintaining employment, completing alcohol or substance abuse counseling, submitting to random urinalysis, attending educational programs, paying any restitution and paying all court costs and assessments. In some counties, you will be expected to sign a contract which sets forth each of the conditions placed upon you.
When the term of supervision is completed and all costs and assessments are paid, the case (which was suspspeded during the time that you particiated in the ARD program) will be dismissed. Your record also will be expunged. How expungement works will be the subject of another article.
Can you be removed from ARD?Yes. The District Attorney may file a motion with the court seeking to remove you from the ARD program if you violate a condition of ARD. Such examples of grounds for removal include:
1) You are charged with or commit another offense set forth in either the Crimes Code, Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, or in 75 Pa.C.S.A. A? 1542;
2) You fail to make required restitution;
3) You fail to complete the mandated highway safety school program (for DUI cases);
4) You fail to complete any other program mandated as a condition of ARD; or
5) You violate the terms and conditions of ARD in any other way.