ARD is the acronym for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program and is the generic phrase used for first-time offender programs in counties across Pennsylvania. ARD can be explained as a probation without verdict type of program, meaning a program that imposes a punishment ordered by the court but does not result in a conviction of the offense.
Normally, a person only receives a sentence or punishment from the court if the person pleads guilty to or is convicted of a criminal charge. By being convicted or pleading guilty to the criminal charge, a person has a criminal record that will appear on criminal background searches. Participation in the ARD program alters the general rule and results in the imposition of a sentence or penalty without a conviction or guilty plea.
The requirements and conditions of ARD often vary depending upon the precise criminal charges that are filed and the county in which the criminal case is being prosecuted. You can find more information about the ARD requirements on the ARD Q & A page. The benefit of ARD is that successful completion of the ARD program avoids a conviction and allows for the dismissal and expungement of the charges, but it must be noted that there are limitations to what can be expunged.
What Charges Are Eligible for an ARD Disposition?
While some Pennsylvania laws or rules do exclude people charged with certain criminal offenses or involving particular facts from being eligible for ARD consideration, the majority of eligibility decisions regarding ARD are made by the district attorney for the county in which the charges are filed.
As a general rule, many district attorneys in Pennsylvania allow for ARD participation or participation in similar programs for relatively minor misdemeanor offenses such as:
- Possession of a small amount of marijuana
- Possession of paraphernalia
- Furnishing alcohol to minors
- Some theft cases
Is ARD Available for Felony Charges? It Depends.
Obtaining ARD for felony charges is often more difficult, but, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, some district attorneys will allow for ARD disposition in such criminal cases. Since the district attorney has almost complete control over ARD admission, the criteria for ARD eligibility can vary substantially from county to county. Therefore, when consulting with a criminal defense attorney, you should make sure that the criminal defense lawyer has experience in handling your type of case in that particular county.
How Is a Person Considered for ARD? Procedure Matters.
In many counties in Pennsylvania, a person is considered for admission into the ARD program for criminal charges by submitting an ARD application to the district attorney's office for consideration. While completion of the ARD application is often a relatively simple process, many district attorneys or court administrators have imposed procedural steps which must also be completed in order to be considered for admission into the ARD program.
A violation of the procedural rules can result in the denial of the person's ARD application. For example, a person seeking ARD admission in Centre County must file the ARD application no later than the date of the scheduled preliminary hearing, and a failure to timely file an application can result in a denial of the ARD application.
Other counties require that certain evaluations are completed before the ARD application is considered. The common saying "ignorance of the law is no defense" is applicable here. While the district attorney may overlook the failures to strictly comply with the procedural rules, there is a strong possibility that such failures could result in a denial of the ARD application.
Given the severe consequences associated with convictions of criminal charges, it is extremely important to get it right, which is why you should consult and retain an experienced and local criminal defense attorney who will know:
- The tendencies of the district attorney and thereby may be able to increase the likelihood that ARD would be approved.
- The procedural rules regarding ARD consideration, would know the ARD requirements and conditions associated with the criminal charges in the particular county.
- How to complete the dismissal and expungement process upon successful completion of ARD.
What Should I Do?
Centre County criminal defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle has provided representation for many people charged with criminal offenses in various counties across Pennsylvania. Attorney Dunkle has had clients charged with criminal offenses be accepted into the ARD program in Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Juniata, and Mifflin counties. State College ARD lawyer Jason S. Dunkle uses his knowledge and experience in handling criminal cases to explain your legal rights and recommend a course of action.
If you or someone your know has been charged with a criminal offense, you should contact JD Law by email or by calling 814-954-1094 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with an experienced State College criminal defense attorney.
Consultations can be handled over the phone or via a face-to-face meeting. Penn State students can easily walk to the JD Law Office, as it is located in downtown State College and only blocks away from the University Park Campus of Penn State.