For First Time Offenders - The ARD Program in Pennsylvania
ARD is a highly beneficial program designed to get first time offenders out of the criminal justice system. It allows the individual to earn a total dismissal of the criminal charges, and once dismissed, the entire case is expunged, which includes your rap sheet, mug shot and fingerprints.
The ARD Program for First Time OffendersMany of my clients are first time offenders who have never been in trouble before and are concerned about how a DUI will affect their lives in the future. Luckily, Pennsylvania has a program for first time offenders which enables the individual to avoid jail time, avoid a lengthy license suspension and most importantly, avoid a criminal conviction on their record. If this is a first offense and it is for a non-violent offense, you may be eligible for ARD.
ARD is an acronym for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. If ARD is approved by the District Attorney, you will not have to admit guilt, and the charges are eventually dismissed after successful completion of safe driving classes, possible alcohol counseling, community service, payment of fines and a probationary period. There is no mandatory jail time and if this is for a DUI, license suspension ranges from no suspension for the lowest BAC level up to 60 days suspension for levels over .16%. Once the charges are dismissed, a Motion for Expungement can be filed resulting in all of the charges being officially removed from your record, including your *rap sheet*, fingerprints and mug shot. As a former Senior Deputy District Attorney, I approved over 1,500 people for ARD, and as a defense attorney, I have assisted well over 2,500 clients gain admission into this beneficial program. Admission into the ARD program is determined solely by the District Attorney and as such, your attorney*s relationship with the District Attorney is extremely important. Under the law, the judge has absolutely no say as to whether someone gets ARD - that decision is left entirely up to the discretion of the District Attorney.
Application for ARD is usually made at the Preliminary Hearing. After the Hearing, if this is for a DUI, you will be ordered to attend a self-reporting alcohol evaluation called a CRN evaluation. The results of this evaluation determine the length of Alcohol Highway Safety Classes (typically 16 or 32 hours) and if deemed necessary, you may have to attend alcohol counseling, such as outpatient treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous. Most counties also require a period of community service and fines are imposed totaling approximately $1,500 or more. Depending on the county, ARD probation typically lasts either six months or one year. Once classes and community service are complete, the individual must stay arrest free during the period of probation. Once completed, the charges are dropped by the DA and the entire case may then be expunged by filing a Motion for Expungement in the Court of Common Pleas.
Expungement of Your Criminal RecordOnce ARD is complete, your criminal record can be expunged. Just because the charges are dropped does not mean that the criminal record is also dropped. Fingerprints and a *mug shot* are required in all criminal matters, which will remain on a criminal history, otherwise known as a rap sheet, until the case is expunged. Upon receipt of the Expungement Order, all agencies are required to destroy all records of the arrest and send an affidavit of compliance to the defendant. Some counties file for expungement automatically, while in other counties it is necessary that you file your own motion in order to have your record expunged.
If ARD is denied, it is possible to request that the DA Reconsider his decision. In this situation, your attorney*s relationship with the District Attorney is of the utmost importance. Generally, I send a detailed letter to the DA requesting reconsideration, listing the reasons why my client should have the benefit of the ARD program, along with character letters and other supporting documentation. Sometimes, I will call the arresting officer and ask him to personally call the DA to *put in a good word* for my client in an attempt to convince the DA to reconsider. I do this because when I was an Assistant DA, when a police officer took the time to call me personally, I gave his opinion great weight because he knew the case better than I. It has been my experience that most police officers are more than willing to assist first time offenders who were cooperative. This exact situation occurred to one of my clients and the police officer literally sat outside the District Attorney*s office and waited until the assigned DA walked by to speak with him about ARD (the officer left the DA several messages but did not receive a return call). This is not a typical situation, but this particular police officer disagreed with the DA*s decision to deny my client ARD and the District Attorney eventually changed his mind and admitted my client into the ARD program.
ARD is a program designed for people who are not criminals. It is for people who made a bad decision to drive and did not seriously harm anyone as a result of their actions. It is a program designed to divert first time offenders out of the criminal justice system and teach them a lesson so they do not repeat the same behavior in the future.