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Montgomery County Shuts DUI Court due to Overburdened Dockets

Posted on February 28th, 2016

At a time when most counties are expanding their DUI Court programs, Montgomery County has decided to end its program due to the overburdened docket of one judge presiding over all DUI cases for the county.    The two-year pilot program that filtered drunken-driving cases into a separate court, will be closed and replaced with the previous system of assigning the DUI cases to random Criminal judges.  At a time when the counties are closing specialized courts – it is important to have an attorney on your side who knows all the potential avenues for a good outcome to your case.

Pennsylvania DUI Law

In the state of Pennsylvania, the DUI law states that one may not drive a vehicle if he has drank enough alcohol to 1) render him or her incapable of safely driving the vehicle, or 2) place his BAC above the .08% level.  The law also renders punishments through a tiering system.  The tiers increase the severity of the punishment you receive depending on how high your blood alcohol content is.  Punishments can range from no jail required all the way up to a mandatory minimum of at least one year in state prison.

Many times first time DUI offenders qualify for a pretrial adjudication known as ARD.  Many Pennsylvanians have qualified and benefitted from the program which allows them to keep a guilty plea off their records, and allows for expungement of the record once the program is complete.  The program requires you to receive a period of probation without jail time, complete a set hours of community service, and finish a highway safety class.

What many people don’t know about ARD is that entrance into the program is at the discretion of the district attorney.

The District Attorney can reject your ARD application for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Not having the paperwork done on time
  • If there was a motor vehicle accident surrounding your DUI
  • Not having a valid drivers license when stopped

Not being eligible for the ARD program will leave you with the unwanted choice of having to go to trial and risk your clean record. However, you may be able to contend your rejection from ARD by applying for a reconsideration. Typically once a reconsideration is filed the DA has two choices, (1) accept the applicant into the program, or (2) set up a panel.  A panel is a group of 5 DAs who sit in a room and hold hearings about whether this applicant is a good applicant for the ARD program. Many clients from Ciccarelli Law firm have benefitted from the zealous and thorough representation of our Criminal Defense Team.

According to Court Administrator, Michael Kehs, “DUI cases are between a quarter and a third of the county’s inventory each year.” Officials say DUI Court Judge Cheryl Austin presided over 1,250 trials and settled  1,087 cases through Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) in 2014. Both sides of the bar were at odds with the effectiveness of the program. Many prosecutors praised the program’s efficiency.  The defense claimed the program led to harsher punishments for low-level offenders.

Contact a Pennsylvania DUI ARD Lawyer

Don’t become a statistic. Don’t face these high fines and Mandatory Minimum sentences alone – call the criminal defense lawyers at Ciccarelli Law Office. Hundreds of clients have gotten the benefit of our criminal defense legal team, a team founded by Lee Ciccarelli and supported by experienced former prosecutors and defenders with one goal in mind, fighting for your rights. Reach us today for a case evaluation at (610) 692-8700.