May 7, 2019
ARD Program: You Should Think of It as a Privilege
Everyone wants second chances. And, in the case of certain offenses, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program offers them. In the meantime, you should know that acceptance into the ARD program is a privilege. By no means, should you think of it as a right.
You could qualify for ARD if you’re a first time DUI offender. Rather than worrying about jail time, you’ll become part of a supervisory program. The concept is right in the name of the program. Everyone makes mistakes, and if it’s your first one, there’s a chance you’ll benefit from rehabilitation.
In the meantime, it’s not just those accused of driving while intoxicated who may be eligible for ARD. However, acceptance into the program often comes with conditions.
Last year, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled on a matter involving a defendant who thought he was improperly denied admission into the ARD program. The case represents a non-precedential decision as the court deemed it an unpublished memoranda decision. Nonetheless, it offers some valuable insight.
Defendant Denied Admission into the ARD Program
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania decided Commonwealth v. Gingrich on March 20, 2018. According to the case history, the Commonwealth charged Nicholas Timm Gingrich with one count of theft by unlawful taking and one count of receiving stolen property, totaling $1,590. The charges involve incidents between August 4, 2015, and November 13, 2015.
On February 10, 2016, defense counsel filed an application seeking admission into the ARD program. A little more than a month later, the district attorney submitted a response confirming Gingrich’s eligibility. In addition to appearing in court on April 26, 2016, admission into the program also required the defendant to meet the following conditions:
- Complete 35 hours of community service within four months
- Secure a mental health evaluation and recommended treatment within six months
- Pay restitution in the amount of $590 by April 26, 2016
Here’s where the problems began. Gingrich did not show up for the hearing on April 26, 2016. As a result, the district attorney sent a letter two days later denying admission into the ARD program. Meanwhile, the district attorney also related the denial to the defendant’s failure to make the requisite restitution payment.
Request for Reconsideration into ARD
On May 3, 2016, the public defender representing Gingrich submitted a request for reconsideration of the ARD application. According to the attorney, the office regularly advises clients that if they can’t pay the portion of requested restitution, they do not need to appear in court. Failure to pay would result in denial of their acceptance into ARD.
A day later, the district attorney advised that the application would be reconsidered. The new special conditions included a five-hour increase in community service. Restitution requirements continued at the same amount and would now be due at the new hearing date on May 31, 2016.
Two weeks before the hearing date, defense counsel submitted a Motion for Payment Determination with the trial court. Additionally, the public defender requested a continuance. The trial court did not grant the continuance. Nevertheless, Gingrich failed to appear on May 31, 2016.
Once again, the district attorney sent out a letter denying the application into ARD due to the defendant’s failure to show up in court. On June 27, 2016, the trial court heard the Motion for Payment Determination. According to the case history, the defendant submitted little documentation concerning his inability to pay restitution as ordered.
As a result, the court ordered Gingrich to submit additional information regarding his finances. The explanations appeared inadequate.
Nevertheless, defense counsel asked the court to compel admission into the ARD program. The legal paperwork asserted that the district attorney rejected Gingrich because he proved indigent and unable to pay restitution.
ARD Program: Privilege or a Right
As far as Gingrich was concerned, the district attorney violated his rights under due process and equal protection. However, the Commonwealth disagreed.
In the first place, the district attorney didn’t reject the ARD application because of the defendant’s indigency or because he didn’t pay restitution. The denial was based on his failure to appear.
When the trial court decided not to compel admission into the ARD program, the Superior Court agreed. Notably, they determined that “ARD is a privilege, not a right, and the decision to submit a matter for ARD is in the sole discretion of the district attorney.”
The balance of this case deals with the ultimate sentencing of the defendant. However, as it pertains to the Commonwealth’s ARD program, this represents an important lesson.