In Pennsylvania, individuals charged with a first-time non-violent criminal offense may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. ARD is a first-offenders program that will enable you to avoid jail time and a permanent criminal record. As an experienced Pennsylvania ARD lawyer, I can help you get approved for this highly beneficial pre-trial diversion program.
As an experienced ARD Program Lawyer, I help clients successfully navigate the complicated ARD application and admission process in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the nearby Pennsylvania 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 Program Eligibility
Pennsylvania created the ARD program to divert first-time non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system and allow participants to avoid having a criminal record. Each Pennsylvania County District Attorney sets the conditions for acceptance into ARD. For example, typical ARD program eligibility requirements include the following:
- You have no prior criminal record
- The police charged you with a misdemeanor crime
- The criminal offense does not involve violence or a sex crime
- The criminal offense did not result in bodily injury or serious bodily injury
- Your blood alcohol level is below .3% in DUI alcohol cases (some counties)
- You did not have a passenger in the car who was under 14 years of age
Suppose the district attorney approves your admission into the ARD. In that case, they will place your criminal charges on hold while you complete the program’s conditions.
Also, the court costs and conditions of the Pennsylvania ARD program will vary depending on the county’s ARD policy and 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.
Pennsylvania ARD Program Requirements
During the ARD probationary period, you must follow strict court-ordered conditions, including:
- Complete a drug and alcohol assessment (DUI)
- Participate in drug and alcohol treatment, if recommended (DUI)
- Attend alcohol highway safety classes (DUI)
- Volunteer for community service
- Avoid arrest
- Pay restitution, if applicable
- Pay ARD court costs and fines
- Complete a specified period of reporting or non-reporting probation
PA ARD Program Non-DUI
In Pennsylvania, most ARD cases involve first-offense driving under the influence (DUI) charges. However, many other first-offense non-DUI misdemeanor cases qualify for the ARD Program, including:
- Retail theft
- Receiving stolen property
- Criminal conspiracy
- False reports to law enforcement
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Disorderly Conduct
- Criminal mischief
- Theft by unlawful taking
ARD Program Bucks County PA
A designated Assistant District Attorney administers Bucks County ARD. Individuals seeking admission into the Bucks County ARD Program must complete a one-page ARD application.
Secondly, the ARD applicant must provide the ARD form to the magisterial district judge at the ARD preliminary hearing date. Finally, the applicant must waive their right to a preliminary hearing to be eligible for the program. Notably, the Defendant will lose their right to ARD admission if they choose to hold a contested criminal preliminary hearing.
Bucks County ARD Application Procedure
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office will typically decide on the ARD application within 4 to 6 weeks of the preliminary hearing. Then, an ARD admission letter is sent to the applicant, notifying them of their acceptance or denial into the program.
However, individuals 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 Bucks County ARD program must complete 10 hours of community service within ten months of the ARD admission date. In addition, they must pay approximately 70% ($1,100.00) of the ARD court costs before the ARD court date.
Bucks County ARD by Mail
The ARD acceptance letter will also include the ARD court date. The ARD court hearing occurs at the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Also, in some cases, Bucks County offers ARD by mail due to COVID-19. An individual approved for Administrative ARD is not required to appear in person for the ARD admission hearing.
Finally, the Defendant must complete all ARD requirements before the ARD admission hearing date to be eligible for ARD by mail.
How to Complete the Bucks County ARD Community Service Requirement
The Bucks County District Attorney requires that ARD applicants complete ten hours of community service at a non-profit or charity organization. Also, program participants must provide proof of completion of community service to the Bucks County Adult Probation Department before the twelve-month ARD term expires.
The community service supervisor must write a letter on the agency’s letterhead verifying the completion of the ten hours of ARD community service. Furthermore, the Bucks County District Attorney mandates that the Defendant complete 10 hours of community service unless the ARD agreement specifies otherwise. The Bucks County District Attorney currently permits the community service requirement to be completed online due to COVID-19.
ARD applicants applying for the shortened 6-month ARD must provide the community service letter to the Bucks County District Attorney before the ARD court hearing.
How Long Does ARD Last in Bucks County?
The typical length of the ARD program in Bucks County is 12 months. Still, it can be shortened to 6 months if you complete all ARD conditions before the Bucks County ARD court hearing.
To qualify for the six-month ARD, you must complete the following requirements before the ARD court date:
- Court Reporting Network Assessment (CRN)
- Community Service (10 hours)
- Alcohol Highway Safety Classes
- Partial payment of ARD court costs ($1,100)
- Payment of restitution, if applicable
Can I request a Continuance of the ARD Court Date to Apply for the 6-month ARD?
No. The Bucks County District Attorney will not approve a person for a six-month ARD if they continue their original ARD court date for any reason. In addition, the ARD program’s application process and court deadlines can be confusing and complex. Therefore, hiring an experienced Bucks County ARD attorney is critical if you want the best chance of being approved for the expedited 6-month ARD program.
ARD Lawyer in Montgomery County, PA
A designated district attorney reviews ARD applications for the Montgomery County ARD Unit. To be considered for ARD, applicants must complete and forward an eight-page ARD application to the district attorney within thirty 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. The ARD district attorney will usually notify the candidate if their ARD application has been granted or denied within six weeks from the preliminary hearing date.
A Defendant can request a formal reconsideration of an ARD denial if the district attorney declines their ARD application. In addition, the Defendant must request a reconsideration of an ARD decision in writing. Finally, the applicant’s request for ARD reconsideration should include additional mitigating information they did not provide in the original ARD application.
Montgomery County ARD Court
The Montgomery County District Attorney will notify applicants approved by mail if their office accepts them for ARD. The ARD acceptance letter will also identify all the ARD requirements the Defendant must satisfy before ARD court.
Montgomery County Administrative ARD
Due to COVID-19, the Montgomery County District Attorney has initiated an administrative ARD program. To qualify for ARD by mail, applicants must complete and forward all ARD documents to the district attorney two weeks before the ARD admission date. In addition, program participants must make a full or partial payment of court costs before the ARD hearing date.
Individuals not approved for Administrative ARD will be required to appear in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on a designated date.
For DUI cases, the Defendant must complete a drug and alcohol assessment, alcohol highway safety classes, community service, and drug and alcohol treatment if required. In addition, all ARD court costs must be paid in full before admission into the ARD program.
Montgomery County ARD Community Service
In most cases, the Montgomery County District Attorney requires that ARD participants complete twenty-four hours of community service. The Defendant may complete the community service at a verified charity or non-profit. Also, you must provide written proof of completion of the ARD community service to the Montgomery County Adult Probation Department before the end of your ARD probation.
Non-DUI ARD applicants must complete community service and pay ARD costs in full before the ARD court date. The typical length of the ARD program in Montgomery County is twelve months. However, in some cases, the district attorney will allow a six-month ARD if the Defendant satisfies all court costs and conditions before the first ARD court date.
I have successfully handled over three hundred ARD cases in Montgomery County. As a result, I can assist you with the application and admission requirements to ensure you have the best chance for admission into this beneficial program.
Montgomery County ARD Expungement
Individuals who complete the terms and conditions of the ARD program are eligible for expungement of the criminal records associated with the case. Like Bucks County, the Montgomery County District Attorney recently instituted an automatic expungement policy for ARD participants.
What is an ARD Expungement?
Once you have completed the conditions of the ARD program, the district attorney will dismiss your charges. Individuals who have completed the ARD program can petition the court to expunge their criminal records thirty days after the ARD completion date.
Many district attorneys will automatically expunge your charges after you complete ARD. Once the court grants the ARD expungement petition, each agency associated with your case will destroy your criminal records. As a result, your criminal charges will not appear on a background check.
Which Cases Are Not Eligible for Pennsylvania ARD?
Each Pennsylvania District Attorney sets the conditions for their ARD programs. In addition, every district attorney has almost unlimited discretion in deciding which persons they will admit into their ARD programs.
Unfortunately, most prosecutors will disqualify persons with felony, violent, and sex offenses. Additionally, most district attorneys will not offer ARD to individuals who have participated in the ARD program within the last ten years. Also, Pennsylvania law prohibits ARD for persons 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 DUI vehicle stop will prevent an individual from consideration for ARD for DUI. Also, individuals charged with a DUI resulting in death or serious bodily injuries to another person cannot participate in ARD.
Why is it Important to Hire an Experienced ARD Lawyer?
First, there is no guarantee that the district attorney will admit you into ARD. However, an experienced lawyer can take steps to make your acceptance more likely. I can assist you in making the most convincing case possible for admission into the program.
In many cases, I provide the ARD prosecutor with critical information about your background, character, and integrity. In addition, each county has specific conditions, deadlines, and pre-admission requirements for ARD applications submitted to the district attorney.
Unfortunately, it is common for an unrepresented person to miss a deadline or fail to provide the district attorney with the necessary ARD documents.
PA ARD Denied?
I have extensive experience assisting individuals with the ARD reconsideration process if the district attorney denies your first ARD application. Furthermore, I have consistently worked with prosecutors, police, and the courts in suburban Pennsylvania Counties to help individuals gain post-denial admission into the ARD program. With your future at stake, hiring a skilled ARD lawyer is crucial.
ARD License Suspensions
Individuals accepted into the ARD program for DUI will receive a Notification of Suspension letter from PennDOT approximately three to four weeks after the ARD court hearing. Furthermore, your driving privileges will typically be suspended within 60 days of the ARD court date. Finally, your Pennsylvania driving privileges will be suspended as part of ARD as follows:
- No driver’s license suspension if your BAC was less than .10%
- 30 days driver’s license suspension if your BAC was between .10% and .159%
- 60 days driver’s license suspension if your BAC was .16 or above
- 60 days driver’s license suspension if you had a controlled substance in your system
- 60 days driver’s license suspension if you refused chemical testing
- 60 days driver’s license suspension if your case involved an accident involving bodily injury
- 60 days license suspension if your case involved property damage
- 90 days license suspension if you were under twenty-one years of age at the time of your arrest
Ignition Interlock License for ARD for DUI
All ARD Defendants subject to a driver’s license suspension are eligible to apply for an ignition interlock license. However, the ignition interlock license is voluntary. If the driver is interested, they must have the ignition interlock device installed in all of their vehicles and submit the required documentation to PennDot.
Penndot will provide the driver with an ignition interlock limited license if a vendor installs the device and the driver mails PennDot with the proper paperwork.
In many cases, acquiring an ignition interlock license will prevent you from losing your job. I can guide you through the ignition interlock license requirements.
Section 17 as an Alternative to ARD
First-time non-violent drug offenders may be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program under the Pennsylvania Drug Act called Section 17. Section 17 is an alternative to ARD and requires proof of drug dependency by a physician or psychologist.
In Bucks County, a person should consider Section 17 for their drug case if they do not qualify for the district court drug diversion program. An individual entering the Section 17 program must enter a guilty plea or a plea of no contest to the drug offense. Also, they must agree to comply with the special probation conditions, including drug treatment, if the judge orders it.
Persons approved for Section 17 preserve their eligibility for ARD if they receive a second criminal charge in the future.
What Happens When Section 17 is Completed?
Completing the terms of the Section 17 program will result in a dismissal of the criminal charges by the court. In addition, persons who satisfy the conditions of the Section 17 program are eligible to petition the court for the expungement of their case records.
For example, Bucks County will complete the criminal record expungement once Section 17 is complete. Also, the Section 17 program is a better alternative for first-time drug offenders than the ARD program. I can determine if you are eligible for the Section 17 diversion program or the other Bucks County Drug Possession Diversion Programs.
ARD May Not be the Best Option for People in Specialized Professions
Entry into the ARD program may seriously affect individuals in certain specialized professions. Therefore, individuals in the following professions should be extremely cautious about accepting ARD for their case if any of the following apply:
- You require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for your job
- You currently serve in the military
- You have a job that requires a security clearance
- Your employer requires that you be bonded as a condition of employment
- You have a job that requires that you maintain professional insurance
- Your job requires that you maintain a professional license or certification
- Your current or future employer requires a clean driving history
- In your opinion, ARD is not an acceptable or just resolution of your case
- You have an aggravated BAC level (BAC over .16)
If you fall within any of these categories, you should explore all available PA DUI defenses. I am an extremely experienced DUI trial lawyer. As such, I will discuss ways to get the charges dismissed by the prosecutor or through a judge or jury acquittal. Above all, I can advise you of the most effective legal strategy to protect your specialized license, certification, and employment if you are a member of one of these professions.
As an experienced ARD Program Lawyer, I help clients successfully complete the ARD application and admission process in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the nearby Pennsylvania 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.