Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a pretrial option for certain non-violent, first-time offenders who hope to avoid a conviction. You can get into ARD by meeting the qualifying factors and completing an application.
This pretrial diversionary program provides some people an option to avoid the risks of a trial and clear their records. This program is generally only open to first-time offenders charged with certain crimes.
To get accepted, you will need to work with a criminal defense attorney familiar with Pennsylvania’s ARD program. Your legal team can answer your questions, explain the program, and create an application.
Understanding Pennsylvania’s ARD Program
As authorized under 75 PA C.S. § 3807, ARD is a court-monitored rehabilitative program that allows participants who meet all criteria and complete the requirements to clear their record of criminal charges. According to the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Services, the purpose of the program is to encourage participants to make a fresh start.
Pennsylvania lawmakers approved the program with the hope that focusing on rehabilitation will reduce recidivism rates for those who were arrested for non-violent offenses such as drunk driving or marijuana possession.
Once accepted into the ARD program, participants will need to:
- Complete a period of monitored probation
- Engage in community service, pay fines, and otherwise follow the court’s orders
- Follow the rules set by the judge for their behavior during this time
After they complete the program by meeting all necessary requirements, the charges are dropped. They can also file to have their record expunged.
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Who Qualifies for ARD?
Most people accepted into the ARD program in Pennsylvania have no previous record and were arrested for a non-violent offense. Some participants may have a criminal history, but it is generally not recent or extensive. They also have to face eligible charges. Some charges disqualify an accused offender from this program, as it is most used for drunk driving, minor drug charges, and similar offenses. Extenuating circumstances and an outstanding application may be able to get you into the program even if it seems like you wouldn’t be considered at first.
Even when someone has a clear criminal record and faces eligible charges, the court must accept them into the program. Not everyone qualifies.
When you apply for ARD, you may want to hire an attorney familiar with this program and the application process. Your lawyer can prepare your application and gather supporting documents. If they know what will make your application stand out to the prosecution and the judge, it could significantly increase your chances of acceptance.
Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney to Get Into the ARD Program?
Hiring a lawyer before applying to the ARD program will make the application process easier. This is a good idea regardless of your qualifications for the program. Having an attorney on your side makes it less confusing to navigate the legal process.
Your lawyer will prepare your ARD program application and supporting paperwork. The prosecution and the court will review your application and take other steps to evaluate your case facts. This could include interviewing victims, witnesses, and the arresting police officer. They could pull your criminal history, if you have one, and even want to talk to you about how you believe this program will benefit you.
If the court approves you for ARD, they will notify your attorney, and you will learn more about the steps you must take to complete the process.
Common Questions About ARD
How do the Courts Decide Who to Accept Into ARD?
Each ARD program application is weighed based on its own merits. The courts may look at the applicant’s criminal history, their chances of success in the program, the circumstances surrounding their arrest, and other details to determine if they are a good fit for the rehabilitation program.
This is why having an attorney familiar with this program may prove useful. They will know what the court is looking for in the application and supporting documents. Your attorney can also build a compelling application that shows rehabilitative support could help you get back on your feet and avoid further run-ins with the law. Ultimately, this is what the court will see as most important when evaluating your application.
What Happens If I do Not Complete the ARD Requirements?
When you apply to and receive acceptance into the ARD program, it pauses your criminal case. The charges still stand, but you do not enter a plea, and there is no further action taken against you. As long as you follow the court’s directions and complete the program, they will drop the charges against you.
If you do not complete the program, you will be arraigned and need to enter a plea. Prosecutors will likely move forward with the case against you. You could face a trial, conviction, and sentence.
Discuss the Pennsylvania ARD Program With a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC, we represent clients arrested for all types of criminal offenses. For first-time, nonviolent offenders, the ARD program might be a good option. We provide a free consultation, and we can assess your options based on your case facts and criminal history. We help clients apply and get accepted into ARD regularly. Our team can answer your questions about this program today.
Contact us now to get started.