"To err is human, to forgive divine." People make mistakes. That is the nature of life at times. Some mistakes will have limited consequences, and some mistakes can unfortunately have profound consequences. Being arrested and charged with a crime can be a mistake that has limited consequences, or it can be a mistake that has profound consequences; the severity of such consequences will depend on a number of considerations involved.
When a first-time offender is arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Philadelphia, depending on the nature of the crime and the charges, a person may be eligible to resolve his or her case through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, also known as "ARD." ARD is a pre-trial diversion program which allow a person to put a mistake behind him or her without suffering profound consequences that can affect a person for the rest of their life.
The Philadelphia Court System and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office have been proactive in recent years in creating diversion programs that ease the burden on the Philadelphia Criminal Justice System, and more importantly to defendants and their families, allow for a second chance. Although Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion is not unique to Philadelphia County because it is potentially available to criminal offenders throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as appropriate, Philadelphia's ARD program follows a specific protocol. An effective defense attorney will understand this protocol, and in doing so, will be able to maximize a defendant's chances of being accepted into the
What are the eligibility requirements for ARD in Philadelphia?
To be considered for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition in Philadelphia, defendants generally have to be first-time offenders charged with relatively minor criminal offenses which require a more lengthy period of supervision than Philadelphia's "Accelerated Misdemeanor Program" (AMP) allows. (The AMP program, unique to Philadelphia, is another pre-trial diversion program initiated by the Philadelphia Court System and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.) Defendants are accepted into ARD at the discretion of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and only after a careful review of the defendant's criminal case and background.
To maximize the chances of being accepted into the ARD program in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office must be provided with, at a minimum, the following information about the defendant:
- A biography detailing the defendant's background
- Employment history and documentation of employment
- Educational history
- Family relations
- Community involvment
- Character references
- Any other positive information that may allow the Philadelphia District Attorney's to offer consideration regarding the criminal case against the defendant
What happens if I accept ARD in Philadelphia?
Prior to entering the ARD program in Philadelphia, defendants must agree to a probationary sentence. The probationary sentence itself will generally involve conditions specific to the nature of the criminal case itself. For example, a first-time DUI offender in Philadelphia will be required to complete alcohol highway safety school, complete a "CRN" (Court Reporting Network) evaluation to assess a DUI offender's potential need for drug and/or alcohol treatment, and if so recommended by the CRN, complete such treatment. A person charged with a theft offense may be required to complete a theft-awareness course that addresses the potential consequences of such a charge.
Once a defendant enters the ARD program, a final disposition is held in "abeyance," meaning temporarily placed on hold, by the Philadelphia Court.
How long will ARD last in Philadelphia?
Defendants seeking ARD must first agree to give up their rights to a speedy trial while their case is being considered. Once accepted into the ARD program, standard conditions of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition include the following:
- payment of court costs
- participation in rehabilitative classes and/or community service
- payment of restitution (if restitution is requested by a victim, the defendant is expected to pay half of the restitution up front at the first ARD court listing)
Defendants complete the terms of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition under the supervision of the Philadelphia Probation Department, located at 1401 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102. Defendants are generally expected to comply with the terms of the program for a period ranging from six months to no more than two years.
The specific lengths of a defendants' ARD supervision is based upon the nature of the crime and the charges.
What happens if I do not comply with my ARD requirements in Philadelphia?
If a defendant fails to complete his or her ARD sentence, they will be removed from the program and the case will be scheduled for trial. Examples of grounds for removal from the ARD program included the following:
- committing another crime while participating in the ARD program
- failure to make required restitution payments
- failure to complete special mandates such as attending anger management, alcohol highway safety classes, or any other conditions that were imposed as part of the ARD sentence
What happens after I complete ARD in Philadelphia?
Once Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition is completed, the original criminal charges against the defendant are dismissed.
Will ARD allow my charges to be expunged in Philadelphia?
Defendants who successfully comply with the terms of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program will be eligible to have their criminal cases expunged. Although the Philadelphia Court previously would expunge DUI cases that were successfully resolved through the ARD program, this is no longer the case. At present, a defendant (or his or her attorney) will have to petition the Philadelphia Court for an expungement of an ARD case in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia ARD Attorney | Pennsylvania ARD Attorney
Having to face criminal charges will be burdensome for people from all walks of life, but for first-time offenders, especially those whose employment, education, or professional licenses (such as a doctor or nurse) may be on the line, the consequences can be extreme if a favorable resolution is not achieved. Such a favorable resolution will often come in the form of Philadelphia's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. Because the stakes can be so high, it is critical to make the strongest possible request for ARD when pursuing such a potential resolution to a criminal case.
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will determine whether a person charged with a crime will be accepted into the ARD program. An effective attorney will be know what kind of information and positive documentation can allow the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to agree to ARD. By doing so, the strongest application possible for ARD will be able to be presented, and a defendant will have the best chance of getting a second chance. Contact skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento today to learn how he can help.