ARD Wipes the Slate Clean For More Than Just DUI Cases

When most people think about Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, they think of another legal abbreviation: DUI. But the conviction-clearing advantages of ARD go far beyond those charged with driving under the influence.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition can be available for first-time offenders who find themselves charged with offenses including theft, harassment and drug charges. As the name implies, ARD is not a conviction; it is a pre­-adjudicated disposition. Successfully complete the terms of the ARD - which could include counseling or drug treatment, depending on the offense - and there is no criminal record.

In Pennsylvania, however, each county has its own policies and procedures for when ARD is appropriate. So in order to fully explore all the legal options available to you, you'll need the representation of an experienced attorney at the time of your arrest.

Making ARD work for you

ARD rules are established by the elected district attorney of each county, which is why it's important to be represented by an attorney familiar with the specific policies. As part of my criminal defense practice at Hynum Law, I'm well-experienced with the procedures in Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, Lebanon, Mifflin, Juniata, and York counties and keep abreast of ARD policies in other counties through the Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Indeed, ARD is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some counties will not accept simple-assault cases for ARD because there is a "victim" involved. Similarly, there are often major disparities in how drug cases are treated with regard to ARD. A person possessing a small amount of marijuana will generally be allowed into the program, but if there is related drug paraphernalia involved, the case may not be approved.

And while the program is designed for first-time offenders, I have handled cases in which individuals with records have been admitted to ARD. This is usually the result of a substantial period of time having passed since the first offense. Again, every county has its own rules.

Often, a wise defense attorney can negotiate and tailor the charges in order to make his or her client eligible for the ARD program.

Accessing ARD in criminal cases

Immediately contacting an attorney after arrest is imperative because some counties will not permit you to enter ARD if you exercise your right to a preliminary hearing. But being represented by an attorney who is unaware of a particular county's procedures can result in a miscarriage of justice - and you are the victim.

Of course, ARD isn't right for every client.

Although ARD isn't a conviction, admission into the program may cause certain collateral consequences to arise. For example, if a person charged with a felony sex offense (eligible for ARD but unlikely to be approved) is admitted into the program, he or she could be required to provide DNA samples even though there is no criminal conviction.

What is more, a relatively minor first offense for retail theft that's disposed of through ARD will be considered a prior offense, despite the lack of an actual conviction. This means entry into the ARD program for minor offenses may lead to an enhanced sentence on a repeat offense, should one occur.

For the most part, however, there is no real downside to an ARD disposition. In fact, you might be surprised at the number of politicians, business executives and athletes who have been in ARD.

Costs of ARD

The costs and the variety of programs associated with ARD enrollment vary greatly depending on the charges, the county and the individual involved. When it comes to price, you can expect to spend a minimum of $500 and may end up paying $1,000 or more.

As for what the ARD process involves, this differs, too, based on the charge. For example, retail theft cases might mandate an anti-shoplifting course.

Simple assaults or harassment may require enrolling in an anger-management program. Domestic relations-related charges will likely bring with them family counseling and/or parenting classes. Drug and alcohol cases involve evaluations and treatment.

For the most part, ARD programs are designed to be completed in 90 days or less. However, the drug and alcohol treatment may continue for up to a year.
But once ARD is successfully completed, the client has taken a huge step toward wiping his or her record clean. At the end of the process, there will be no public record of the arrest or the charge. ARD offers the closet thing our criminal justice system has to a clean slate and a second chance.

Should you or a family member be charged with a crime, don't hesitate to call. The sooner we talk, the quicker I can assist in successfully resolving your case so you can get on with your life.