ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition)
Diversion is the act of changing the path of a case. Instead of being fully prosecuted by the District Attorney to trial, the ARD lawyers at The Zeiger Firm work to get the case diverted to an alternative program resulting in a withdraw of prosecution from the District Attorney. Most diversion programs require the defendant has little to no previous contact with the criminal justice system.
The most well known diversion program in Pennsylvania is called ARD, which stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. There are many reason why ARD is so good. To get ARD, the criminal defense lawyers at the Zeiger Firm apply for ARD with the District Attorney. Once accepted there is an ARD hearing. No plea is ever made, nor is there ever any admission of guilt.
There is a special probationary period of time, fines and costs, and sometimes community service or drug treatment. In most counties once ARD is complete, the court system issues a certificate of completion. After completion, you can file an expungement to have the charges themselves erased off your criminal record, and the DA cannot object to having the record erased, as a matter of law.
Another reason ARD is the best diversion program in Pennsylvania is because the program is available to people arrested for their first DUI (Driving Under the Influence). The vast majority of first time DUI cases carry a term of incarceration of 48 or 72 hours and a one year license suspension. In the ARD program, for DUI, there is no jail time, and a very short license suspension.
Other types of diversion are:
Section 17, Probation without Verdict
In Section 17, your case must be a drug case. You enter a plea of no contest. The judge holds the plea under advisement. However, you are on regular probation. If you complete the probationary period given to you by the judge without any violations, you are found not guilty and the case can be expunged. However, if you have a violation while on Section 17, the judge has the power to find you guilty and re-sentence you, which would give you a permanent record.
There is also something called Section 18, which is rarely used. Section 18 functions the same as section as Section 17. The difference is instead of the requirement of drug charges, the charges must be related to drug activity. For example, possession of drug paraphernalia.
Drug Treatment Court
In Drug Treatment Court, you enter a no contest plea and are given a host of tasks and court dates. If you complete the entire Drug Treatment Court program, you are found not guilty and the arrest can be expunged. Drug Treatment Court is one of the best diversion programs in Pennsylvania because it allows first time offenders, caught with large quantities of drugs possessed either for personal use or being sold to support a habit, to enter treatment, get cleaned-up and avoid a criminal conviction. The only negative with Drug Treatment Court is the program is a major commitment of time and focus. A person entering Drug Treatment Court must be willing to make a change to their lifestyle and truly commit to the program. Also, Drug Treatment Court can be difficult to get. While there are no more mandatory drug sentences in Pennsylvania, at the time of mandatories in Pennsylvania, none of the mandatories applied in Drug Treatment Court.
DUI Treatment Court
DUI Treatment Court has the same basic principal as Drug Treatment Court. The only county where we actively see a DUI Treatment Court is Philadelphia County. This court functions similarly to the Drug Treatment Court except it is for DUI cases instead of drug cases. This court also involves treatment and rehabilitation. This is a great program for people who have a third DUI case looking at 1-5 years of state incarceration.
Intermediate Punishment is a term used for getting around tough sentences. If someone has little to no contact with the system and accepts responsibility for their actions, the District Attorney may agree to Intermediate Punishment. The big benefit of Intermediate Punishment is mandatory sentences do not apply. Currently, in Pennsylvania, there are no drug mandatory sentences, so the Intermediate Punishment is not as useful as in the past. However, there are still many situations where Intermediate Punishment is by far the best option. The negative about Intermediate Punishment is the defendant has a conviction which can never be expunged. Intermediate Punishment can be used in any type of case, including DUI cases, but the prosecutor must agree to allow the judge to sentence the defendant under the Intermediate Punish statute.
State Intermediate Punishment
State Intermediate Punishment is very similar to Intermediate Punishment. The main difference is the defendant is accepting a state sentence. This program is rarely used. However, in the right case, its a great program. State Intermediate Punishment is best used when someone is facing a massive sentence, clearly accepts responsibility for their actions, and simply wants to minimize their case as much as possible.
Motivational Boot Camp
Motivational Boot Camp is one of the best diversion programs in Pennsylvania. However, only a limited amount of people are eligible. In Boot Camp, the judge makes you eligible at the time of sentencing, and you go upstate and wait to see if the Department of Corrections classifies you for Boot Camp. If you are classified as eligible, your are eventually transferred to an outdoor style camp where you perform physical labor and exercise. Once you complete the program, you are paroled. This process takes approximately 9-15 months. You must be physically fit to enter the program, below a certain age set by the Department of Corrections, and the maximum sentence you can receive and be eligible for the program is 3-6 years. The reason the program is so good is that if you have a 3 year minimum, you could be home in 9 months.
Veterans Court is a place where veterans can get help organizing their lives and getting back on track. This court only exists in Philadelphia County. With the help of many great programs and assistance this program can help many veterans get their lives turned around. Usually the program does not take people charged with felonies, however, they often make fact specific exceptions. Further, you must have an Honorable Discharge.
Summary Diversion is for people charged with a Summary Offense in Philadelphia County. In these cases, you are given an assignment of watching a video, attending a class, paying a fine, and/or community service. If you complete all of the assigned tasks, the matter is dismissed, and there is no objection to an expungement.
Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP)
AMP is for people who are first time offenders charged with non-violent misdemeanors in Philadelphia County. In AMP the person is given community service and/or a treatment plan. They are not on probation, nor is there a guilty plea. After completion, the charges are dismissed and can be expunged.