Admission into the ARD program is one of the only opportunities that first-time offenders have to evade serious legal repercussions in Pennsylvania. If you have been charged with a crime for the first time, it is important you learn about ARD and determine if you are eligible to apply.
For the purposes of this article, we will discuss (1) what this program entails, (2) the requirements that you will be obligated to fulfill when in the program and (3) how an attorney will help you get accepted.
What is ARD?
ARD, short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, is an intervention pre-trial program that is offered for first-time criminal offenders. In special circumstances, it may be attainable to people with limited run-ins with law enforcement. ARD gives alleged perpetrators the chance to avoid strict penalties like the loss of driving privileges, jail time and the creation of a criminal record by completing the terms set by the program. The program offers admission to people who have acquired charges for non-violent and minor offenses such as driving under the influence, drug usage, drug possession. etc. Once a person has received acceptance, his or her case will usually be put on hold for the duration of a year, so that the courts may impose specific requirements that must be completed. If the requirements are fulfilled within the given time, a person's case will be dismissed and the criminal charges will be expunged from his or her criminal record. (Depending on the nature of the case, ARD in Philadelphia generally will range from six months to two years).
Philadelphia's Requirements for ARD Program
If accepted into the state's ARD program, they delay your case with the impression that you will completely fulfill specific requirements within a given time. The program has intentions of making alleged perpetrators at times work hard for a dismissal and expunged charges by imposing requirements that must be fulfilled. After a court orders that a case will be handled by ARD, a person will immediately be placed on “supervision,” or an informal probation. This supervision is much like a probation period, however, it cannot officially be called probation since people in the program have not been found guilty and convicted of a crime. Once put on supervision, a probation officer from the Philadelphia Probation Department will be responsible for ensuring that you complete the requirements tasked to you and that you are following the regulations upheld by the program.
The requirements will likely vary based on the nature of a case. Here are some arbitrary duties that will be expected of individuals in the ARD program:
- The completion of a driver's safety course (for Philadelphia DUI cases)
- The completion of community service
- Take drug tests that prove there is no drug or alcohol use
- Paid restitution
- The avoidance of run-ins with law enforcement or criminal charges while on supervision
- Waiving the right to a speedy trial
- A driver's license suspension(for most Philadelphia DUI cases resolved through ARD)
- The completion of drug and alcohol counseling
Getting Into an ARD Program
Not everyone is allowed access to entry into the ARD program. Admission criteria are also not explicitly laid out by the program. However, due to an attorney's familiarity with the types of cases that are more likely to be accepted, they will be able to assess whether or not your case will be considered. If a legal professional reviews your case and concludes that it is likely you will be accepted, they will help you draft the strongest application possible and send it to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office. In some instances, and especially in matters where the likelihood that ARD will be approved are slim, an effective attorney will make the effort to personally get a defendant's ARD application into the hands of the best party at the Philadelphia District Attorney's to help with ensuring acceptance into the program. A cover letter will also be attached to this application, containing an attorney's detailed analysis of your situation and why you deserve a spot in the ARD program.