Philadelphia offers a type of diversion program called the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program for certain types of charges and certain people being charged. This ARD program is meant to keep many low-risk and first-time offenders from having to go through the criminal justice system after making an honest mistake, like driving under the influence (DUI).
If you are facing a DUI charge and have a clean criminal history, Philadelphia's ARD program might sound like an excellent idea. However, there are important strings attached to the program, as well. This makes it crucial to have criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento at your side to help you decide whether pursuing ARD is a good idea, or not. Contact him online to get started.
What is Philadelphia's Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) Program?
Philadelphia's ARD program is a diversionary program that is meant to take certain low-level, non-violent, first-time offenders out of the criminal justice system. This lightens the caseload of local courts, recognizes that many crimes are more mistakes than deliberate conduct, and follows the idea that many offenders deserve more in the way of rehabilitation than punishment.
If eligible, you can choose to go through Philadelphia's ARD program instead of through the criminal justice system by accepting temporary probation and then completing the requirements of ARD. If successful, the conviction will be expunged from your criminal record, leaving you with no criminal history. If you are not able to complete the ARD program, though, the case will go to trial.
Typically, the ARD program is reserved for people who have committed a first-offense drug crime or DUI. However, people who are being charged with other crimes could also be eligible, under certain circumstances.
Eligibility for the ARD Program
In order to be eligible for Philadelphia's ARD program, you need to be facing a relatively minor offense. In the end, though, it is up to the District Attorney's Office to accept you into the ARD program, as the determination is largely at their discretion. As jails grow more crowded, though, it has become easier to get into Philadelphia's ARD program.
There are, however, some types of offenses or circumstances that rarely or never lead to ARD eligibility. These include:
- Criminal charges of violent crimes, like assault, even if they are only currently pending
- For DUI charges, the presence of a child under 14 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest
- Prior convictions, including for DUI
- Prior participation in the ARD program
- Previous accusations of domestic violence or sex crime
In its consideration of eligibility, the District Attorney's Office also takes into account the testimony of your peers, family, and friends, as well as the victims of the crime you are being charged for committing. This makes it both incredibly difficult to know, for sure, whether you stand a good chance of being admitted into the ARD program, and to have a good criminal defense attorney on your side to convince the pertinent parties that this is something you would benefit from.
How Philadelphia's ARD Program Works
If you are deemed eligible for ARD, you will have to waive your right to a speedy trial, and instead agree to a probationary sentence. The length of this sentence depends on the nature of the criminal charge and can range from six months to two years. However, it typically lasts for one year. The sentence also comes with numerous conditions that need to be satisfied before the term of the probation has expired. These conditions are unique to the specific circumstances of your charge, though they typically include:
- Paying restitution to any victims, if the victims request it, including half of the total up front
- Paying court costs
- A driver's license suspension
- Random drug tests
- Community service
- Avoiding new criminal charges while on probation
- Completing driver's safety courses or alcohol or drug awareness courses
- Completing rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol
- Regularly reporting to the Office of Adult Probation
While you serve your year of probation and complete these conditions, the court will hold the original criminal against you in abeyance. This means that it has not been thrown out, but also will not be pursued while you are on probation.
The benefits of Philadelphia's ARD program are impressive, in some circumstances. For people who are well-positioned to complete the terms of the temporary probation, it can be a useful way to avoid the stress and the long-term impact of a criminal conviction, including the collateral consequences of having a criminal background. It can even avoid much of the license suspension, and all of the jail time that might come with the criminal charge.
However, the costs of the ARD program might outweigh its benefits in some cases.
One of the biggest obstacles is the financial cost of participating in the ARD program. These largely depend on the nature of the charges that you are facing. This is especially true if you are required to pay restitution to the victims, as the people who are hurt by DUI suffer far more serious injuries and require far more in restitution than victims of, for example, drug crimes.
Unfortunately, paying all of these costs is a part of completing ARD. Failing to pay them all can result in you being removed from the program. The criminal charges—which had been held in abeyance during your probation—will then be pursued against you, and you will be put on trial. This makes the ARD program an unwise move if you are not in a position to satisfy all of the probation's requirements before it expires.
Philadelphia ARD Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia who helps the accused decide whether to pursue ARD. If you have been charged with a crime like a drug possession or DUI, reach out to him for the information and advice that you need to make the best decision for your circumstances. Call him at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online.