The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania takes every alleged crime seriously. The legislature acknowledges that some crimes are of a lesser nature, such as non-violent misdemeanors. Special provisions have been made for persons who have no prior misdemeanor or felony criminal records and, the current offense is of a non-violent nature. This special program gives a slap on the wrist to law abiding citizens who made one mistake. This is known as the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition, or ARD, for short. The best way to describe this program is ” probation without verdict.”
For defendants who have been arrested for a misdemeanor, such as simple assault or a first-time DUI, ARD offers an alternative to spending time in jail and worse experiencing a criminal record. It’s important to understand there are several requirements you must meet to become eligible for ARD. This program does offer an alternative to being put “into the system,” it will require patience, quite a bit of work and an unwavering commitment to see it through to completion.
The Basics of ARD
The ARD program is designed for anyone in Pennsylvania who has been arrested on a minor or non-violent offense. Per the program’s guidelines:
The primary purpose of this program is the rehabilitation of the offender; secondarily, the purpose is the prompt disposition of charges, eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming trials or other court proceedings.
In other words, the program seeks to rehabilitate defendants who have been charged with minor crimes that do not breach the public trust. Successful completion of the program gives people a fresh start, and wipes the arrest off their records. (Expungement process)
Those who are accepted into the program typically have their cases suspended for 12 months. During that time, defendants must adhere to the strict provisions of the ARD program. Any violation of these requirements could result in termination of the ARD. If this occurs, the prosecutor can resume the normal legal process, which most often results in fines, incarceration in a county jail, and a permanent criminal record.
The Provisions of ARD
After defendants are accepted into the ARD program, their case is given to an officer in the Adult Probation Department, who will supervise their activities for up to two years.
The Probation Officer will inform defendants of all requirements to complete the program, which often include:
- Complete Community Service – The length of time varies based on the offense, but typically lasts from two (eight hour) days up to eight days.
- Attend Alcohol and Drug Counseling – A majority of ARD participants are arrested for DUIs and possession of controlled substances. These classes provide treatment that can help stave off a major alcohol or drug problem.
- Pay ARD Program Fees and Cost of Prosecution – This can vary from twelve hundred to sixteen hundred dollars.
- Repay Victims – This applies to theft type cases, as well as cases in which property was damaged or lost. Restitution typically must be paid prior to admission into the program.
- Waive Your Right to a Speedy Trial
- Avoid New Arrests – Any new criminal offense while a defendant is in the ARD program will nullify the defendant’s participation.
Getting Into the ARD Program
The best way to get into the ARD program is to hire an experienced and knowledgeable accelerated rehabilitative disposition lawyer who can evaluate your case and determine whether you meet the requirements.
It is important to remember the District Attorney must approve a request for your case to be processed through ARD, so hiring a lawyer like Steven F. O’Meara, who has extensive contacts in the legal community, can benefit you. Please call us today at 610-565-9200 to schedule your free consultation.