At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we understand how much a criminal record can affect your future. It can prevent you from getting a good job, renting an apartment, buying a home, and more. That’s why the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is such a good fit for first-time offenders. It gives you the second chance you deserve.
What is The ARD Program?
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a pre-trial intervention program designed to give first-time offenders of a non-violent crime a second chance. The program is similar to probation — instead of receiving a prison sentence, the defendant will be under supervision. At the successful end of the program, the defendant’s record is wiped clean.
The purpose of the ARD program is to not only provide a second chance to the defendant but save the court system time and money. It is an early intervention method designed to rehabilitate, rather than punish. The majority of defendants who enter the program are facing charges of driving under the influence of either alcohol or a controlled substance.
Are You Eligible for ARD?
Each county in Pennsylvania has its own set of guidelines for eligibility into the ARD program. But it’s usually under the discretion to either approve or disapprove the defendant’s application of the program.
Eligibility qualifications usually include the following criteria:
- It is your first offense.
- There wasn’t a breach of public trust during the crime. For example, no one received an injury or died during a DUI offense.
- It was a non-violent offense. For instance, if you are facing aggravated assault charges, you will not be eligible for ARD, even if it’s your first offense.
Please note that if there was a passenger under the age of 14 in your vehicle at the time of the crime, you would not be eligible for ARD.
The ARD Program Process
It’s essential to note that you should speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately following an arrest. Only an attorney with experience in helping people get into the ARD program can successfully assist you through the process and let you know what to expect.
It is up to the district attorney (DA) to decide whether you are eligible for the ARD program. Before or at your arraignment, your lawyer will make an application to the DA for entry into the program. As part of the application process, you will be waiving your right to a quick trial.
It will take the DA some time to confirm that you do not have a record. Once approved, you will be attending a hearing where you will fill out a form that indicates you want admittance into the program and that you understand your rights. Remember, you do not have to plead guilty to the offense.
Once the judge approves your application, you will have to pay for the cost of the program. These fees include not only enrollment fees and court costs but also supervision fees. In many counties, the cost of the ARD program following a DUI can range from approximately $1,500 to $3,000. In Lackawanna County, the cost is $1,523.50.
Your program will consist of one, if not all, of the following:
- Drug testing and drug abuse classes
- Anger management course
- Community service
The maximum period of supervision is two years. During that time, if you fail to follow the guidelines or are under arrest for committing another offense, you will be removed from ARD and will have to go to trial for the original crime.
Once you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed, and you can file a petition with the court to have your record immediately expunged. Thanks to the ARD program, you can still say you have never been accused of committing a crime.
ARD Guidelines for DUI Charges in Lackawanna County
In Lackawanna County, those charged with a DUI must make an appointment with the Scranton Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services prior to applying for the ARD program.
In addition, the applicant must show that they were never convicted of a criminal offense in Pennsylvania or any other state participating in the ARD program. They must also show that they were made aware of all elements of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Act including:
- Completion of ARD gives the opportunity to have charges dismissed
- Failure to complete the program means the Commonwealth may press charges against the defendant
- The right to a speedy trial is waived
- The program can range from six months to two years
- The application will be terminated if there are newly-discovered facts of the case
Should the applicant provide a false statement under oath, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to two years in prison and fined up to $5,000.
How Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Not all criminal defense attorneys have experience with the ARD program; but with a former chief public defender and a former two-term Lackawanna County district attorney on our staff, we know the program inside and out. Our attorneys will work with the District Attorney’s Office to make sure you are accepted into the program and will guide you through the process of how it works. We’ll make sure you understand what the court expects of you.
If you are charged with a non-violent crime or a DUI and this is your first offense anywhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the time to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney is now. Contact Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano now to protect your future. We are prepared to fight on your behalf.