March 19, 2019
First Time DUI Offender? Could You Qualify for ARD?
Facing charges as a first time DUI offender? More than likely, you’re worried about a number of things. Among them is the reality that a drunk driving conviction could tarnish your record. However, don’t lose all hope until you know your options. Could you possibly qualify for Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, also known as ARD?
As you may already know, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established ARD as a diversionary program for certain types of offenders. In fact, 75 PA Cons Stat § 1552 authorizes the court of common pleas in each judicial district and the Municipal Court of Philadelphia to implement ARD programs for those charged with driving under the influence of controlled substances.
It’s right in the name. The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program focuses on rehabilitation. It comes down to acknowledging that people make mistakes. There’s no hurry to put you in jail to learn your lesson. However, that’s not to say that ARD offers a free pass for every first time DUI offender.
Eligibility into the program varies from county to county. However, some prerequisites are the same. For example, the District Attorney in Lackawanna County specifies what DUI offenses may prevent admittance into the ARD program. These include charges that involve serious bodily injury or those that include distribution of controlled systems or violent acts.
If you are placed on ARD, you come under the supervision of the county court’s probation and parole department. Generally speaking, you can expect the court to impose a supervisory period for up to twelve months. Ultimately, you may make an application for dismissal and expungement of the drunk driving charges.
ARD Program Considerations
If you’re a first time DUI offender, the ARD program may sound perfect to you. However, it’s definitely something you need to discuss with an attorney experienced in handling drunk driving cases.
Like most people, you’re likely worried about how you’ll get around if your license is suspended for DUI. Truth be told, those under ARD supervision receive a reduction in mandatory license suspension.
For example, if you have no prior DUI offenses and your BAC is between .10% and .159%, you could expect to lose your license for up to 12 months. If you’re part of the ADR program, your suspension period changes to 60 days.
Not Always the Best Option
Just because you qualify for the program does not mean it’s the best option for you. In many cases, it makes more sense to fight the charges. Once again, it’s critical that you speak with an attorney who can provide you with legal advice based on your circumstances.
Your career represents a major consideration when it comes to entering the ARD program. It’s bad news for anyone to lose their driving privileges. However, CDL truck drivers face even more significant losses with at least a one-year mandatory suspension even when they are enrolled in ARD.
In the meantime, other professionals face potential consequences associated with DUI charges. You may have issues if you fall into any of these categories:
- Hold a professional license, such as a medical doctor
- Possess a professional certificate, such as teacher
- Serve in the military
The bottom line is that you need legal representation to fully understand what makes sense for you in your present situation and how it relates to your future.