When facing criminal charges, a defendant and his or her family will often have many questions. For a person in trouble with the law for the first time, questions may include:
- How will the charges affect me...my family...my work...my education...my future?
Because making an unfortunate or honest mistake, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time in Philadelphia can produce unwelcome consequences both in the short and long-term, a person charged with a crime must make certain that they respond to the circumstances as effectively as possible. One potential path forward that can help a person avoid a criminal record, or more specifically, a criminal conviction, is the prospect of resolving their charges through Philadelphia's ARD program.
How do I qualify for Philadephia's ARD program?
In Philadelphia, there is no formal application for the ARD program, also known as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program. A person can qualify for ARD in certain instances (and if a strong application is submitted) even if charged with certain felony offenses.
When representing a person charged with a crime in Philadelphia who may benefit from Philadelphia's ARD program, for example a first-time offender, college student, professional such as a nurse or doctor, an experienced attorney will not only ask such information of the defendant, but will also do a criminal record check to determine if the person charged has any prior criminal contacts. The reason for doing a background check is that prior contacts may, and often prohibit non-DUI ARD, although DUI ARD may still be available to a defendant if the prior contact are of a less serious nature.
Will an out-of-state record affect my chances of getting into Philadelphia's ARD program?
An out-of-state arrest and conviction will definitely be a factor used by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in deciding whether ARD will be granted to a defendant. Because there are obviously 50 states, a person charged with a crime in Philadelphia should be forthright with his or her attorney in whether he or she has ever been in trouble with the law at anytime anywhere throughout the United States. Having all necessary information regarding the person's background will allow the attorney determine the likelihood of acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program, and ultimately, make the best strategic decisions regarding how to resolve the Philadelphia criminal charges.
What factors will the District Attorney's Office consider in deciding whether I will be approved for Philadelphia's ARD program?
An experienced attorney will also get all of the facts related to the criminal offense including any mitigating factors which may have been present. A mitigating factor in a Philadelphia DUI case involving an accident, for example, may include the fact that the person charged has / had car insurance at the time of the accident and that there were no injuries to anyone involved in the accident. If the accident only involved slight damage to property or involved an unattended / unoccupied vehicle, that would also work in a defendant's favor in terms of improving the defendant's chances of being accepted in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program.
The defendant's background information will also be strongly considered by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in determining whether the charge(s) can be resolved through ARD. An experienced attorney will obtain information and documentation related to:
- The defendant's upbringing
- The defendant's educational history
- The defendant's work history
- Whether the defendant has dependents (a child or children, older parents, etc.)
- How a criminal conviction (if the case were not to be resolved through ARD) could affect the defendant future prospects
- Character references from any concerned parties in the defendant's life that can speak to the defendant being a good person
Reasons Why Your ARD Application Should be as Comprehensive as Possible
Not only must ARD be requested at the earliest possible time during the course of a defendant's criminal case (within reason), but an attorney who strives for the best possible outcome will not draft a bare-bones ARD application for intended submission to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, but rather, will invest the necessary time and effort to draft a comprehensive ARD application with all necessary information and documentation that will put the person charged in the best light possible.
The reason being that when the criminal file of the person charged is in the hands of the "powers that be" at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office (the ones who decide whether or not ARD will be granted), all that is reflected is the person's name and limited demographic information, the person's criminal record, the charges against the person, a brief narrative of the specific allegations against the person (provided by the "discovery" in the case - necessary police reports, and when applicable, witness statements, any statements made by the person charged, photographs and videos, and so forth).
A comprehensive application for Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion with all possible supporting information and documentation will help the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office have a better understanding of who the person charged is and why he or she is deserving of another chance.
When do I have to apply for ARD in Philadelphia?
As to when an ARD request needs to be made in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will also consider this as a factor in deciding whether or not a defendant will be allowed to resolve his or her case through ARD. The earlier a request is made, the better the chances are, all circumstances being equal otherwise, that ARD will be approved. If, for example, a defendant requests ARD after the first trial date (for matters scheduled for trial in Philadelphia Municipal Court) or after the preliminary hearing (for cases involving a felony charge or felonies), ARD may be rejected for no other reason other than a late / untimely request. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney will understand this important consideration, and will make the best strategic decisions on the defendant's behalf with this information in mind.
What happens after I request ARD in Philadelphia?
After an ARD request is made in Philadelphia, the request itself is processed by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Although the protocol is not ideal, an attorney may or may not receive notification that the ARD request. Because of this potential concern, the attorney for the person charged should follow up with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to make certain that: 1) the ARD request was in fact received; and 2) to inquire if the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office requires any additional information that would help in its decision regarding whether Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion will be granted.
Prior to the defendant's hearing date, however, the defendant's attorney should receive notification via mail or email as to whether or not the ARD applicant has been "provisionally" accepted in the ARD program.
Most Philadelphia misdemeanor cases are scheduled for courtroom 404 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, also known as the "CJC." The Criminal Justice Center is located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
What takes place on my day of court when approved for ARD in Philadelphia?
If a defendant has been provisionally approved for ARD (both driving under the influence and non-DUI cases), the defendant and his or her attorney should report to courtroom 404 on the assigned date. Courtroom 404 of the CJC is a "calendar room" presided over by a "Trial Commissioner" rather than a sitting judge.
On the day of court, the defendant's attorney should find the defendant's case number on the listed provided in the courtroom and should notify the court staff that the case is "ARD-approved" so that the case can thereafter be listed in courtroom 803 of the Criminal Justice Center for ARD "disposition" for non-DUI cases or "ARD-staging" for Philadelphia DUI cases. Prior to speaking with the court staff, it advisable that the defendant's attorney also speak to the assigned prosecutor in courtroom 404, confirm the ARD status (so that there are no issues when the case is called), and receive discovery if necessary.
After the case is addressed / called, the defendant will sign his or her subpoena for the next court date in courtroom 803 where the defendant will formally enter the ARD program for non-DUI cases, and for cases involving driving under the influence, where the defendant will have an ARD-staging date for prospective formal admission to Philadelphia's Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program at a later court date.
Pennsylvania Attorney for ARD | Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Having to face criminal charges will be burdensome for people from all walks of life, but for first-time offenders who want to avoid a criminal record, especially those whose employment, education, or professional licenses (such as a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for example) may be on the line, the benefits Philadelphia's Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program can be profound.
Despite the many benefits of resolving a criminal case through the Philadelphia ARD program, understanding what factors will be considered in whether a defendant is granted another chance or not can be difficult to appreciate for someone who has never previously navigated the Philadelphia criminal justice system. If you or a loved ones needs help making a bad situation better, contact skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento today.