In Pennsylvania, individuals who have been charged with a non-violent criminal offense for the 1st time may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. Individuals who successfully complete the ARD program in 2022 will avoid jail time and the other penalties associated with a criminal conviction.
Bucks County ARD Attorney
I have over a decade of experience helping clients successfully navigate the ARD application and admission process in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
PA ARD Requirements
The ARD program is designed to divert first-time non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system and provide participants the chance to avoid having a criminal record. If the district attorney approves your acceptance into the ARD program, your criminal charges will be suspended or put on hold while you complete a short term of probation.
Importantly, the court costs and conditions of the Pennsylvania ARD program will vary depending on the county you are charged in. as well as the type of offense involved. Individuals facing a driver’s license suspension under ARD for DUI are eligible to apply for an ignition interlock limited license. During the ARD probationary period, you must follow strict court-ordered conditions, including some or all of the following:
- Drug and alcohol screening (DUI)
- Drug and alcohol treatment if recommended (DUI)
- Completion of alcohol highway safety school (DUI)
- Complete community service
- Remain arrest free
- Payment of restitution
- Payment of court costs
- Complete a specific period of probation
Bucks County PA ARD Program
The Bucks County ARD Program is administered through a designated Bucks County Assistant District Attorney. Individuals seeking admission into the Bucks County ARD Program must fill out and submit a 1-page written ARD application. The application is filed at the magisterial district court where the applicant’s preliminary hearing is scheduled. Additionally, the applicant must waive their right to a preliminary hearing to be eligible for the program. Significantly, you may lose your eligibility for ARD if a preliminary hearing is held in your case.
Bucks County ARD Application Procedure
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office will typically make a decision on the ARD application within 4 to 6 weeks of the preliminary hearing. An ARD admission letter is sent to the applicant notifying him or her of their acceptance into the program and the ARD court date. Formal admission into the ARD program takes place at the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
However, individuals who are denied acceptance into the ARD program may file a written reconsideration of the denial decision with the district attorney’s office. Individuals accepted into the ARD program are expected to complete a minimum of 10 hours of community service during the length of the ARD program and pay approximately 70% ($1,100 dollars) of the ARD courts costs prior to the ARD court date.
How to Complete the Bucks County ARD Community Service Requirement
Proof of completion of community service must be provided to the Bucks County Adult Probation and Parole Department before the 12-month ARD term expires. The community service letter must be written on the letterhead of the nonprofit where the community service was completed.
Furthermore, the Bucks County District Attorney requires a minimum of 10 hours of community service unless the ARD agreement specifies otherwise. The Bucks County District Attorney is currently permitting the community service requirement to be completed online due to COVID-19. ARD applicants applying for the 6-month ARD must provide the community service letter to the Bucks County ARD Unit or district attorney before admission into ARD.
Bucks County ARD Program Length
The typical length of the ARD program in Bucks County is 12 months but can be shortened to 6 months if you complete certain requirements prior to the Bucks County ARD court hearing. You will need to complete highway safety classes, a CRN evaluation, drug and alcohol treatment and community service. In addition, you must make a full payment of all court costs ARD date to be eligible for the 6-month ARD.
ARD applicants are not eligible for 6-month ARD program if their ARD court date is continued to a second or subsequent court date. The application process and court deadlines for the ARD program can be confusing and complex. Therefore, it is critical to hire an experienced Bucks County ARD attorney if you want the best chance of being approved for this first-time offender program.
ARD Montgomery County PA
The Montgomery County ARD Program is supervised by a designated Assistant District Attorney in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. Individuals who want to be placed in the ARD program must submit an 8-page written ARD application to the district attorney’s office in Norristown, Pennsylvania within 30 days after the applicant’s preliminary hearing date.
Montgomery County ARD Application Process
The Montgomery County District Attorney requires that all ARD applicants waive their preliminary hearing and formal arraignment as a condition for consideration for the program. Individuals accepted into the ARD program are usually notified if their ARD application has been granted within 6 weeks from the preliminary hearing date. The district attorney allows applicants to seek a formal reconsideration if their ARD application is denied. A request for reconsideration of ARD denial should be submitted in writing and should identify additional mitigating information not identified in the original ARD application.
Montgomery County ARD Court
Individuals approved for admission into the Montgomery County ARD Program will be required to appear in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown, Pennsylvania on a designated date for formal admission into the ARD program. The Montgomery County District Attorney will notify applicants approved by mail if they are approved for ARD. The ARD acceptance letter will also identify all of the ARD requirements that must be completed prior to ARD court.
For DUI cases, a drug and alcohol assessment, drug and alcohol treatment, highway safety classes and community service must be completed prior to the ARD court date. In addition, all ARD court costs must be paid in full prior to admission into the ARD program.
Non-DUI ARD applicants must complete community service and pay ARD costs in full prior to the ARD court date. The typical length of the ARD program in Montgomery County is 6 months if all ARD court costs and conditions are completed prior to the first ARD court date. It is important to have an experienced Montgomery County ARD attorney assist you with the application and admission requirements to ensure that you have the best chance for admission into the program.
Montgomery County ARD Expungement
Individuals who successfully complete the terms and conditions of the ARD program are eligible for expungement of the criminal records associated with the case. Unlike other counties, the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts does not automatically expunge criminal records related to a completed ARD case.
It is important to file an expungement petition in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas once your ARD has been completed. Otherwise, the record of your charges and ARD participation will show up on a background check and on a public access court website. I have over 15 years of experience assisting individuals with the expungement process for ARD in Montgomery County.
What Happens When ARD is Completed?
Once you have completed the conditions of the ARD program, your original criminal charges will be dismissed by the court. Individuals who have successfully completed the ARD program are eligible to petition the court for expungement of their arrest records after 30 days from the ARD completion date. In many counties, including Bucks County, the ARD expungement is completed automatically by the clerk of courts. Other counties (such as Montgomery County) may require that the ARD program participant file the expungement petition. If the ARD expungement petition is granted by the court, the records associated with your case will be destroyed and your criminal charges will not appear on a background check.
Cases Not Eligible for ARD
The Pennsylvania ARD program is controlled by a designated District Attorney in each county who has almost unlimited discretion in deciding will be admitted into the program. ARD is a pre-trial diversion program intended for first time offenders. Felony charges, violent offenses and sex offenses will not be considered for admission into the ARD program. Additionally, the ARD program will not be offered to individuals who have been admitted into the ARD program within the last 10 years or to individuals charged with DUI who have a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 14.
In some counties, the lack of a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration or auto insurance at the time of a vehicle stop will disqualify an individual from consideration for ARD for DUI. Individuals charged with a DUI resulting in the death or serious bodily injuries to another person are also disqualified from eligibility for ARD.
The Importance of Hiring an Experienced ARD Attorney
There are no guarantees of your admission into the ARD program but there are steps you can take to make your acceptance more likely. I can assist you in making the strongest case possible for admission into the program by providing the district attorney with the necessary information about your background, character and integrity. Each county has specific conditions, deadlines and pre-admission requirements for ARD applications submitted to the district attorney.
Reconsideration of an ARD Denial
I have extensive experience assisting individuals with the ARD reconsideration process when the first ARD application has been denied. I have worked successfully with prosecutors, police and the courts to help individuals gain admission into the ARD program in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. The ARD eligibility and application process is different in each Pennsylvania County. With your future at stake, it is critical to hire a skilled ARD lawyer.
ARD License Suspensions
Individuals accepted into the ARD program for DUI will receive a Notification of Suspension letter from PennDOT after the ARD court hearing. The suspension of your driving privileges will typically begin within 60 days of the ARD court date. Your driver’s license will not be suspended if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than .10%.
If your BAC was between .10% and .159%, you will lose your license for 30 days. Your license will be suspended for 60 days if your BAC was above .16 or if your BAC is not known. In addition, you will also lose your driving privileges for 60 days if you were charged with driving under the influence of drugs or controlled substances. In addition, you will lose your driver’s license for 60 days if you were involved in a DUI which resulted in bodily injury to the victim or resulted in damage to a vehicle or other property.
Ignition Interlock License for ARD for DUI
Adults charged with underage DUI will face a 90-day driver’s license suspension regardless of the BAC level. Individuals subject to a 30, 60 or 90-day driver’s license suspension due to a DUI can petition for an ignition interlock limited license. Individuals approved for the ignition interlock license can operate their vehicle during the suspension period after an approved breath testing device and receiving the ignition interlock license from PennDOT.
There are many advantages to the ARD program. Most importantly, you will avoid jail time for your charges. In addition, you will also avoid a longer suspension of your driver’s license. You can truthfully tell current and potential employers that you have no criminal convictions. Employers are generally less likely to fire or withhold a job offer based on your participation in a Pennsylvania ARD program.
Section 17 as an Alternative to ARD
1st time non-violent drug offenders may be eligible for a pre-trial diversionary program under 35 P.S. § 780-117 of the Pennsylvania Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device and Cosmetic Act. Admission to the Section 17 program requires proof of drug dependency by a physician or psychologist.
In Bucks County, the Section 17 program should be considered for individuals facing drug charges who do not qualify for any of the magisterial district court drug diversion programs due to the Bucks County residency requirement. An individual entering the Section 17 program must enter a guilty plea or a plea of no contest to the drug offense and agree to comply with the conditions of the special probation, including drug treatment if required by the court.
What Happens When Section 17 is Completed?
Successful completion of the terms of the Section 17 program will result in a dismissal of the criminal charges by the court. Individuals who successfully complete the conditions of the Section 17 program are eligible to petition the court for expungement of the records of the case. For example, Bucks County will complete the expungement for you once the Section 17 program requirements are complete. The Section 17 program is often a more desirable alternative for 1st time drug offenders than is the ARD program. I can determine if you are eligible for the Section 17 diversion program or the Bucks County Drug Possession Diversion Programs.
ARD Consequences for Specialized Professions
Entry into the ARD program may result in serious consequences for individuals employed in certain specialized professions. Admission into the ARD program may adversely impact CDL license holders, members of the military, professional license holders and individuals whose employment requires bonding or a security clearance. I can advise you of the most effective legal strategy to protect your specialized license and job if you are a member of one of these professions.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you are facing criminal charges in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties, you may qualify for ARD, Section 17, or other 1st time offender programs. Do not let a mistake in judgment adversely affect your future. Contact me to discuss the most effective strategy to avoid a permanent criminal record. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.