In Pennsylvania, certain criminal offenders have the opportunity to join the ARD program, or the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. The ARD program is only available to first-time offenders with misdemeanor charges. The program is for people who have never gotten in trouble with the law before. If you’ve received a driving under the influence (DUI) charge and it’s your first offense, you may be eligible to enter the ARD program. There are several benefits to this program versus a criminal conviction in Pennsylvania. Find out if you’re eligible.
What is the ARD Program?
Chapter 3 of the Pennsylvania Code describes the ARD program as one intended to rehabilitate the offender and lead to the prompt disposition of charges. With the ARD program route, an offender completely skips the trial and court processes. There is no criminal conviction. Instead, the individual goes under supervision, similar to probation, for an appointed amount of time (typically six months for DUI charges). A DUI offender in the ARD program must typically attend drug or alcohol courses, along with possible community service. Benefits of the ARD program over a DUI conviction include:
• Lower costs. There are fees associated with ARD, but none of the court costs typically involved in a DUI conviction. This can save the offender thousands of dollars.
• No jail time. Offenders can avoid jail time and return to their normal lives, for the most part. This can help DUI offenders keep their jobs and stay in school.
• No criminal conviction. After the ARD probation period, the courts will dismiss the charges against you. The charges will remain on your record, but you will have no history of a criminal conviction.
The ARD program is in place to get DUI offenders back on their feet, and to encourage them not to make a second offense. With this program, the person has the possibility of expunging the DUI charge and having a fresh start. Upon successful completion of the program, the individual simply has to petition the courts and request record expungement. This will seal the person’s records and effectively “erase” the charges for all public purposes. The ARD program is a one-time alternative to a DUI conviction and mandatory jail sentence.
Who Qualifies for the ARD Program?
To qualify for the ARD program, the DUI offender must have had no prior DUI offenses in the last 10 years. If the drunk driving incident caused a crash, there must have been no serious injuries as a result. The individual must have a reasonably good driving record. A history of moving violations can disqualify an individual for the ARD program. If the DUI driver had any passengers under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the offense, he or she will be ineligible for the program.
You must apply for the ARD program within 10 days of your preliminary DUI hearing. You must complete the correct form and get it notarized. A DUI defense attorney can help you with this process. At your preliminary hearing, the courts will order you to fulfill a self-reporting alcohol evaluation, during which you’ll answer questions relating to your alcohol use. If you’re eligible for the ARD program, the courts will look at your alcohol evaluation and blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level at the time of arrest to decide your ARD program terms.
The courts may order immediate suspension of your license upon entry into the ARD program according to your BAC level. A BAC of 0.08-0.099 will have no suspension, while a BAC of 0.16 or higher (or refusal to take the test) results in a 60-day license suspension. If you believe you qualify for the ARD program in Pennsylvania, speak to our DUI attorney for more information.