If you have been arrested and charged for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, you may be facing serious penalties. Criminal procedures can be confusing for individuals who are not familiar with the legal system as defendants have several options in front of them. For example, they can plead guilty and accept the sentence imposed or they can take their case to trial and fight their charges outright. Pennsylvania law also provides another possible option for certain DUI defendants with the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
What is ARD?
ARD is a special program that allows qualifying defendants to take part in a strict probationary period and avoid other criminal consequences, including a conviction on their criminal record. If an individual successfully completes the ARD program, the will occur:
- Your charges will be dismissed.
- You will have no DUI conviction.
- You do not have to enter a guilty plea.
- You will not have to spend time in jail.
- The record of your DUI arrest and charge will be eligible for expungement.
Not only is the ARD program beneficial for defendants because they will not have to risk a jail sentence, but the absence of a conviction on their record and the possibility to clear the arrest and charge from their record can have a hugely positive impact on their lives. Future landlords or employers will not be able to see any record of your DUI and hold it against you.
Who is eligible for ARD?
Not everyone charged with DUI has the opportunity to participate in the ARD program. The following will disqualify you from ARD:
- Having a criminal conviction in the past ten years.
- You had a passenger in your vehicle under the age of 14 years at the time of your DUI arrest.
- Your DUI caused injury or death to another person.
The ARD program is geared toward helping out first offenders who have not caused injury and who do not seem to be a high risk for future offenses. The District Attorney is in charge of deciding which defendants are accepted into the program. However, if your initial application was rejected, it is possible to request reconsideration. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to apply for the program and help you appeal the decision if you were wrongfully denied. Even if you do not qualify for ARD, however, you may qualify for other alternative programs that may avoid conviction, including DUI Court or the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP). An attorney will know how to identify all possible options to avoid conviction in your case.
What does ARD entail?
DUI defendants who are accepted for ARD are not simply let off the hook. Instead, they have many responsibilities that must be met in order for them to complete the program and have their charges dismissed. Though requirements can vary for each defendant based on the specific circumstances of their case, the following are some examples of common requirements for ARD participants:
- Obey the law and avoid any subsequent arrests or criminal cases during the program.
- Refrain from driving if their driving privileges have been suspended.
- Complete all court-ordered community service in a timely manner.
- Pay all fines ordered by the court by the required dates.
- Submit to random drug tests and not be suspected of tampering with drug test results.
- Follow any other guidelines or requirements that your probation officer felt were necessary in your particular case.
For some DUI defendants, following the rules and requirements of ARD can be relatively easy and they complete the program without issue. Others, however, may struggle to make all of their appointments without the ability to drive, may not be able to pay their fines, or may fail drug tests. Such defendants risk ejection from the ARD program.
Experienced criminal defense attorney Brian Zeiger can assist with your DUI case
As a DUI defendant, your options could be overwhelming. Brian Zeiger is a highly qualified criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who will always explore every possible option in your case and will help you make the best possible decision. Whether you plead guilty, go to trial, or participate in ARD, Mr. Zeiger will help you obtain the best possible outcome and will aggressively represent you and your legal rights. If you are facing DUI charges or any other type of criminal charge, do not hesitate to call the Zeiger Firm today at 215-546-0340 to discuss your specific situation.