As a State College DUI Lawyer, I get asked a lot of questions about what people should and should not do to avoid getting pulled over for a DUI or how they can get out of a State College or Centre County DUI after they are charged. As a lawyer, my first response is always the same and it is probably the most infuriating and that is, it depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the individual’s situation. Now this may sound all well good to my lawyer brethren, but to the average person who gets pulled over for a DUI in Philipsburg or Bellefonte, this means absolutely nothing. So, in an attempt to help you out, I will answer the question that is never posed to me, but is the most important for any first time DUI offender in Centre County and that is, how do you insure the best opportunity to get into ARD? As most of you probably already know, ARD stands for alternative rehabilitative disposition. ARD is considered a diversionary program under Pennsylvania law that permits first-time DUI offenders in certain situations to enter into the diversionary program. After successful completion of ARD, a person may petition a Centre County Court to dismiss the DUI charge and have the DUI charge expunged from their record. In essence, successful completion of ARD wipes the slate clean. Without the proper guidance of a Centre County DUI lawyer, you may cost yourself the chance to enter ARD well before you even get the opportunity to ask the prosecutor for it. So lets say you are driving home on a Friday night and you are stopped for “erratic driving.” When the officer approaches your car he smells alcohol and asks you to step out of the car. The officer then asks you to perform various field sobriety tests and to blow into a breathalyzer. After performing the walk and turn field sobriety test equivalent of the triple axle with a pause and kick turn, you are booked for DUI.
Later that weekend you are talking to your neighbor Wilson and he tells you that he got out of a DUI for riding a bicycle drunk by simply asking the judge to put him in ARD. Wilson also tells you that he saved a “couple grand” on paying for some sheister lawyer to do what he could do on his own. So you think to yourself, that sounds easy enough and you like saving money, so you decide not to hire a State College DUI lawyer and instead do what Wilson did and plan to just ask the judge for ARD. A couple of months later, you are at the preliminary hearing for your DUI charge and when your case is called you ask the judge for ARD. The judge proceeds to tell you that ARD is at the discretion of the prosecutor and you will have to take it up with him. The judge also tells you that in the meantime, the DUI charge has been bound over for trial. After the preliminary hearing you approach the prosecutor and ask him if he can recommend you for ARD. The Centre County district attorney politely declines your request for ARD and you are left to await trial on your drunk driving charge where you could be facing jail time, stiff fines and an extended driving license suspension. Had you simply hired a State College DUI attorney and not listened to Wilson, all of this could have been avoided. You may be asking yourself the same question as our friend Tim was asking himself after his preliminary hearing and that is why wasn’t I admitted to ARD when I asked the judge at the preliminary hearing for ARD? This is the $64,000 question that most State College motorists who are cited for DUI ask themselves when they do not hire an attorney and are not admitted into ARD. The answer is quite simple and that is the Centre County district attorney’s office is granted the sole discretion whether or not to admit someone into ARD or not (this means that you cannot simply ask the judge to place you into ARD). Which brings up to the single most important thing to know if you are charged with a first time DUI in State College or Centre County and that is the Centre County district attorney’s office requires an individual to waive their right to a preliminary hearing in order to be recommended for ARD. Whether this is constitutional or not is a subject for another post, but the bottom line is this, if you want to have any chance of being admitted into ARD for drunk driving in Centre County, you need to request ARD prior to the date of your preliminary hearing and agree to waive the preliminary hearing.