The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is responsible for the Diversion Court Unit. Philadelphia has been among the most progressive in the development of diversionary initiatives and alternative sentencing programs. They now have more than a dozen such programs including the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, Mental Health Court, Future Forward, and others. Many defendants have avoided criminal convictions and the often difficult “collateral consequences” that result.
The Pennsylvania Code clearly explains the goals of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD). The first reason for ARD is to rehabilitate the offender. Other reasons include “prompt disposition of charges” and saving time and money by avoiding trials and other court actions. ARD programs offer defendants incentives to complete types of treatment, rehabilitation, and education.
The Pennsylvania Committee for Criminal Justice Standards and Goals has recently expanded on several goals and guidelines that pertain to ARD and other pretrial diversionary programs. They stated that ARD allows courts to “reduce the over criminalization” that often results from ambiguous statutes.
The Committee emphasized that ARD is intended to reduce case backlogs; therefore, it should only be used for cases that otherwise would be prosecuted. Further, ARD should not be used for “keeping weak cases” in the court system.
ARD in Philadelphia
In 2018, there were more than 10,000 participants in ARD programs in Philadelphia. There were approximately 1,200 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenders that participated in ARD. Local officials recognize that those with a criminal record are more likely to be hindered when seeking employment, housing, and more.
ARD Program Eligibility and Disposition
Those that qualify for ARD are typically first-time offenders that have committed non-violent offenses. These offenders are appropriate for a longer period of supervised probation than those entering the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program. Defendants must be willing to conform to the conditions of probation and are admitted at the discretion of the District Attorney.
During the initial criminal process, the defendants will waive their right to a speedy trial. Some of the key program requirements include:
- To pay all applicable court costs and any orders of financial restitution (when applicable)
- Complete a specific number of community service hours
- Participation in activities and classes that are focused on rehabilitation
- Satisfy any other requirements issued for supervised probation
- The probationary period may range from six months up to two years based on the nature of the offense
Those who violate the conditions of supervised probation may be removed from the program. These individuals will be ordered to appear in court to face the original charges. Some of the violations that could result in removal include being arrested for another crime or failing to satisfy financial obligations.
Those who complete the program are eligible to have their criminal charges dismissed. This process of expungement is completed by the First Judicial District.
Experienced Defense Attorney for Criminal Cases in Philadelphia
Those who are convicted of criminal offenses may face lengthy jail sentences and have significant fines imposed. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skills and experience necessary to effectively defend clients in these matters. Contact the office today for a case consultation at (215) 535-5353.