When a person is arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania, many times such a person is a first-time offender; having never been in trouble with the law before. For a first-time offender in Pennsylvania, their world can seem like it is crashing down. A DUI can also happen to anyone - Whether the person stopped is a doctor, nurse, teacher, or college student for example, anyone can make a mistake and get in their car to drive home.
When such a mistake happens, however, the path forward can be difficult. Being stopped by the police can be unsettling enough, but being asked to step out of your car, take a field sobriety test (FST) on the side of a road, being handcuffed, take a Breathalyzer or a blood test, and so forth will be traumatic experiences for most people. This is not to mention what comes next - The person's preliminary arraignment, preliminary hearing (when applicable), and potential trial. If the proper steps are taken as soon as possible after a person DUI arrest in Pennsylvania, there is hope. An effective DUI defense attorney will know which steps to mitigate the effects of a DUI charge.
Will I have a preliminary hearing in a Pennsylvania DUI case?
When a person's DUI arrest takes place in most Pennsylvania counties, a preliminary hearing to address the DUI charge will be scheduled at the applicable time. This is in contrast to Philadelphia DUI cases - In Philadelphia, a DUI preliminary hearing will be scheduled if the person is also charged with felony offenses - aggravated assault by DUI for example. A DUI charge, even when charged with other misdemeanor offenses, will not invoke the scheduling of a preliminary hearing unless a felony offense is also charged.
What options are there for first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania?
Whether a person is charged with a first, second, or third DUI offense for example, there is always the prospect to fight the DUI case. Fighting a DUI case in Pennsylvania will involve applicable pre-trial motions being filed on the defendant's behalf, and proceeding to trial as necessary thereafter. If pre-trial motions are successful, however, for example, if the results of the blood test are suppressed because they were obtained as the result of an illegal search of the defendant, the prosecution may withdraw the charges rather than proceeding to trial. This may be unlikely however, but even if so, the prosecution's case will often be significantly weakened without otherwise key evidence. Often fighting a DUI charge is the only option, but in some instances, a first-time offender will have options available to him or her that would not be available a defendant who previously been in trouble in with the law.
As noted above, there is hope for a person charged with a first DUI offense. There is hope even if the person was charged with a DUI involving a controlled substance - Marijuana for example. Such hope comes in the form of "ARD," which stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.
How does "ARD" help with a DUI case in Pennsylvania?
"ARD," or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, is a pre-trial diversion program in which the prosecution agrees to suspend prosecution of the defendant's case for a specific period of time in exchange for the defendant's successful participation in a rehabilitation program, the specifics of which are determined by the applicable court involved (Philadelphia for example) and by Pennsylvania statute (specifically, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3807).
Prior to the 1982 amendments to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (known as "Title 75") which mandated a statewide ARD program for DUI cases, the availability of ARD for individuals charged with driving under the influence was optional. The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure largely governed which DUI cases could be considered for ARD eligibility until this change in Pennsylvania law was made.
Can the District Attorney decide whether or not a DUI case can be resolved through ARD?
The development of mandated ARD programs for DUI in counties throughout Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and otherwise) has assured the statewide availability of ARD for individuals charged with driving under the influence. Mandated ARD procedures also provide for uniform eligibility requirements. Nonetheless, the District Attorney for each Pennsylvania county maintains considerable discretion to determine under what circumstances a person will be considered for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.
An effective DUI defense attorney must understand not only the applicable District Attorney's policies for admission to the county's ARD program, but also in instances when ARD is inappropriately rejected by the District Attorney, applicable Pennsylvania case law to challenge such a rejection.
How will a person's driver's license be affected by ARD?
There are many benefits to a person being able to resolve a DUI case through ARD (no criminal conviction for example), but one of the most significant is the greatly-reduced length of time that a person's driver's license will be prospectively suspended. The prospect of being found not guilty at trial aside (or an alternative favorable resolution such as the charges being withdrawn when appropriate), if a person is convicted of a first offense DUI in Pennsylvania and does not resolve his or her case through the ARD program, the person's driver's license will be suspended for one year.
How long will my driver's license be suspended if I resolve my DUI case through ARD?
Under present Pennsylvania law, a person who resolves his or her DUI case through ARD will not be subject to a license suspension at all if the person's blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the testing (Breathalyzer or blood test) was less than 0.10%.
If the person's BAC at the time of testing was at least 0.10% but less than 0.16%, the mandatory driver's license suspension is for 30 days.
A person's driver's license will be suspended for 60 days, however, if: 1) the person's blood alcohol content at the time of testing was 0.16% or higher; 2) the person's blood alcohol content is not known due to a refusal to take the Breathalyzer or blood test for example; or 3) an accident was caused in which bodily injury or damage to a vehicle or other property resulted in connection with the events involving the current offense.
Additional Considerations Regarding ARD - A Favorable Resolution in Many Instances
In addition to a (greatly-reduced) driver's license suspension, resolving a DUI charge in Pennsylvania will involve additional considerations - Drug and alcohol assessment and treatment, at times extensive in cases requiring intensive outpatient treatment, may be a condition. Overall, if a person can be granted ARD for a DUI charge, there are considerable benefits in taking advantage of such a prospective resolution to what can be a difficult time in life. An effective DUI defense attorney can help advise as to best steps forward, and how to resolve a DUI case with the least possible consequences.
Philadelphia Attorney to Help with ARD for DUI Case | Lawyer to Help with Pennsylvania DUI ARD Program
If you or a loved one is charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, the prospect of ARD should be explored (in many instances); it is better to have options, especially when faced with a challenge, and if a DUI case can be resolved through ARD to allow a person a second chance, it is better to for the person charged to be able to decide whether he or she wants to enter the ARD program, or in cases where there are weaknesses in the prosecution's case for example, whether the case should proceed to trial.
If facing a DUI charge in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, or Northampton County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today to learn if ARD if right for your or your loved one's DUI case.