If you know somebody who has been charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, particularly crimes such as DUI or minor offenses related to drug possession, you have probably heard of “ARD.” If you have been charged with a criminal offense, particularly a first-offense DUI or minor drug crime, ARD may be the best option for you. But what exactly is ARD? How does it work? Why is it a good option? This article will attempt to answer these questions and many more, including a summary of relevant law at the end. If you have been charged with a crime and you think ARD might be a good option, we would invite you to contact the law offices of Rehmeyer & Allatt here in State College, Pennsylvania to learn more.
WHAT EXACTLY IS ARD?
ARD stands for “Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.” It is a program that all Pennsylvania counties are required to have in place for individuals with no criminal record (or a very limited criminal record) who have been charged with a relatively minor, non-violent offense(s). According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, “the program is intended to encourage offenders to make a fresh start after participation in a rehabilitative program and offers them the possibility of a clean record if they successfully complete the program.” Pa. R. Crim. P. Ch. 3, Refs & Annos.
Essentially, if you have been charged with a relatively minor offense-typically DUI’s, possession of a controlled substance for personal use, or possession of drug paraphernalia, etc.-if you are accepted into the ARD program your case is essentially placed on “hold” for a period of time. During the time your case is on hold-typically one year-the court will impose certain requirements that you must complete within that time. If the requirements are completed by the end of the ARD period, the Court will then notify you that your case is eligible to be dismissed completely and erased from your criminal record. Once your case has been dismissed and erased, a public record check will be unable to turn up any details regarding the offense.
In drug cases, ARD will also allow you to avoid the damaging consequences of a driver’s license suspension under Pennsylvania law.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ARD PROGRAM?
ARD effectively delays your case with the promise that if you complete certain requirements within a given period of time your case will be dismissed. Accordingly, if your case is approved for ARD there will be a number of requirements that you have to complete during the time you are on ARD. Beginning on the date of the hearing at which your case is placed on the ARD program by the judge, you will be placed under the supervision of the local office of Adult Probation. By law, ARD supervision cannot exceed two years. Pa. R. Crim. P. 316. While you are not technically “on probation” during this time because you have not been found guilty of any crime, Probation will keep an eye on you to ensure that you are completing the various things that are required.
Though the specific requirements change from case to case depending on the type of offense, generally the requirements are as follows:
- Complete some community service (applies to almost all cases. Usually 1-2 days)
- Complete an alcohol-safe driving course (applies to all DUI cases)
- Complete drug & alcohol counseling (applies to drug related offenses and certain DUI’s with a high blood-alcohol content)
- A driver’s license suspension (applies to DUI cases)
- No alcohol or non-prescription drug use (applies to most DUI cases and drug cases)
- Pay the cost of prosecution and ARD supervision (usually several thousand dollars)
- Pay restitution (theft cases and cases involving property damage)
- You must waive your right to a speedy trial
- You may not be charged with any other criminal offenses while on ARD supervision.
HOW DO I GET INTO THE ARD PROGRAM?
Attorney Julian Allatt of Rehmeyer & Allatt has helped countless individuals get their cases placed on the ARD program. A general outline of the process is as follows:
During the initial meeting with a client, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to make an assessment of whether your case would be eligible for ARD in the county in which you have been charged. While Pennsylvania law requires that all counties have an ARD program, criteria for admission to the program is not spelled out explicitly under the law. Rather, the law authorizes the District Attorney for any given county to make the decision as to whether or not your case is appropriate for ARD. Each District Attorney’s office is a little different and it is important that your attorney be familiar with the practices and requirements of the County in which you have been charged.
Typically, your attorney will gather personal information from you and then assist you with completing the county-specific ARD application. Once the application is completed, your attorney will submit the application directly to the District Attorney’s office on or before the date of your preliminary hearing. In addition to the application, an experienced attorney will submit a cover letter explaining to the DA who you are, what happened in your case, and why your case should be placed on the ARD program. At your preliminary hearing, your attorney will speak to the police officer who charged you to get their position on ARD placement and, if they have concerns, your attorney will attempt to convince the police officer that ARD is appropriate under the circumstances. After speaking with the police officer, your attorney will speak to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case to find out his or her position on ARD. If everybody is on the same page and it looks as though ARD is the appropriate way to resolve your case, you will then be required to waive your preliminary hearing. If you have been charged with DUI, after you waive your preliminary hearing, you will be required to undergo a CRN evaluation to determine if you have a substance abuse problem and what, if any drug & alcohol counseling would be required if you were placed on the ARD program.
Between the date of your preliminary hearing and your next court date-called an “arraignment”-the District Attorney’s office will review your ARD application and make a determination as to whether or not your case is appropriate for the program. If you are approved, you will be enrolled on the ARD program at your next court date.
IS ARD THE RIGHT THING FOR ME?
In most cases, the answer is yes. There are many benefits to the ARD program-if you are enrolled on ARD for a criminal offense and you successfully complete the requirements, your case will be dismissed and you can then have the charge and all court records of the offense expunged from your record.
As I often tell my clients, if you have been charged with your first criminal offense and the offense charged is relatively minor, ARD is an ace up your sleeve and it would be foolish not to use it. In most cases, ARD can shorten your driver’s license suspension, lower fines, permit you to clear your record and even help you avoid mandatory jail time.There are a few exceptions to the rule, however. Depending on the circumstances of the individual client, an experienced criminal defense attorney may recognize that ARD is not the appropriate way to resolve a case. This can be true where, for instance, a professional driver or heavy equipment operator has been charged with a DUI. If it is determined that even an ARD disposition to the case will affect that individual’s livelihood, then ARD won’t really help and it may be necessary to explore other options, including taking a case to trial.
ARD stands for “Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.” According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure,
“[D]efendants eligible for the ARD program are first offenders who lend themselves to treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment [where] the crime charged is relatively minor and does not involve a serious breach of the public trust. The program is intended to encourage offenders to make a fresh start after participation in a rehabilitative program and offers them the possibility of a clean record if they successfully complete the program.”
Pa. R. Crim. P. Ch. 3, Refs & Annos
All counties in Pennsylvania are required to have an ARD program and the general requirements concerning ARD under Pennsylvania law are outlined in Chapter 3 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. You can view the entire chapter here. Procedurally, the way it works is this: The Defendant, through his or her attorney, applies for ARD with the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney then reviews the application to determine whether or not the case is appropriate for ARD. If the case is approved by the District Attorney, the District Attorney then makes a “motion” to the trial court for the case to be considered for ARD. A “hearing” is then conducted on the Commonwealth’s motion at which time the judge determines whether or not the case is appropriate for ARD, and then enters an order either placing the case on the ARD program or denying the Commonwealth’s motion. The relevant law can be summarized as follows:
The initial decision to recommend a case for ARD lies solely with the prosecutor who has wide discretion to recommend or not recommend a particular case for the program. Commonwealth. v. Cline, 800 A.2d 978, 981 (2002). Accordingly, it is the District Attorney of the county in which the offense was committed who decides whether to submit a case for ARD or not. Under the law, the District Attorney’s decision to deny ARD cannot be disturbed unless it can be shown that the District Attorney based his or her decision to deny ARD on criteria that is “wholly, patently and without doubt unrelated to the protection of society and/or the likelihood of a person’s success in rehabilitation, such as race, religion or such obviously prohibited considerations” Commonwealth. v. Lutz, 495 A.2d 928, 935 (1985). Once the District Attorney submits a particular case for ARD to the court, the trial court is then vested with the discretion to decide whether to accept the recommendation. Commonwealth. v. Cline, 800 A.2d 978, 981 (2002). However, if a judge denies a defendant entry into the ARD program, the judge’s decision can be reviewed for abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Gano, 781 A.2d 1276, (Pa. Super. 2001) (Denying ARD application by defendant, who was convicted of driving under influence (DUI) of alcohol, was manifest abuse of discretion, where no aggravating circumstances existed, district attorney recommended that defendant be accepted into ARD program, and defendant cooperated with authorities, had no prior criminal record, and had no prior moving violations on his driving record.)