The officer told me that I would get ARD for my DUI charges, so why should I talk to or hire a DUI defense lawyer?

DUI Defense Attorney

The better question is why would you not talk to a lawyer when you are charged with a criminal offense. First, most Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations, so it will not cost you anything to have an experienced Centre County DUI attorney review your case. Second, while the officer may have been nice, the officer's primary role in the criminal process is to assist the district attorney with the prosecution of the charges against you. If the officer was really that "nice," then why were you charged with DUI as opposed to being driven home and given a warning? This simply shows that the officer's primary motive is to perform their job, which requires them to file DUI charges and then try make sure that they do not lose a DUI case. A defense lawyer's role is to protect your interests. It simply does not make sense that a person would take legal advice from the prosecution team as opposed to the criminal defense team. A police officer is not going to tell a DUI suspect if the officer made mistakes during the DUI investigation that could lead to the suppression of evidence or dismissal of the charges. Also, while the officers are generally familiar with the ARD program, many officers do not know the details and thereby often give people incorrect legal advice. There is a reason that non-lawyers are not supposed to give legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer such Centre County DUI attorney Jason S. Dunkle at JD Law in State College.

As discussed above, ARD is a first time offenders program that may allow for the dismissal and expungement of DUI charges. While the officer may tell a DUI suspect that a person is eligible for ARD, some officers are not aware that Pennsylvania law prohibits some people from being approved for ARD. For example, if the DUI suspect had a passenger under the age of 14 in the vehicle, or if the DUI involved an accident and someone other than the driver was seriously injured, then the DUI suspect is not eligible under state law to be considered for admission into the ARD program.

Assuming a person is eligible under the law for ARD consideration, the district attorney of every county selects which ARD applicants are approved for admission into the program. As every county's ARD eligibility is established by the district attorney of that county, it is important to consult with a DUI attorney that has experience in the county in which the charges are filed to ensure that you obtain advice from an attorney familiar with the local procedures. For example, the Centre County District Attorney has established deadlines for the submission of the ARD application and placed restrictions on what can be done with a case in order to be approved for admission into the ARD program. A failure to follow the application rules or comply with the ARD requirements can lead to exclusion or removal from the program.

It also must be noted that ARD allows a person to have the DUI charges dismissed and expunged, but most courts, like those in Centre County, do not complete the expungement for the DUI defendant. Instead, dismissal and expungement paperwork must be filed with the court to facilitate those processes. If the appropriate paperwork is not filed, then, not only will the DUI charges remain on the person's record, but the record will also reflect that the charges remain pending. The primary goal in completing ARD is to have the DUI charges dismissed and then expunged, so the failure to finalize the expungement process negates the primary purpose in completing ARD.

Many people question whether or not they should hire an attorney to provide representation if a DUI case will be resolved via participation in the ARD program. While an ARD disposition is not a difficult case for an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is a new and unknown process for most people unfamiliar with the criminal system. The old adage that ignorance of the law is not an excuse is applicable here. The failure to follow the rules associated with ARD at any point during the process may prevent admission into the program or inhibit successful completion of the ARD program. Failure to complete the program will often prohibit the DUI charges from being expunged and may even result in the person's removal from the ARD program. If a person is removed from ARD, the DA thereafter resumes prosecution of the charges. It is easier and generally more cost effective to hire an attorney to handle a DUI case properly at the beginning instead of hiring one to try and rectify a problem after the fact.