What is ARD and what does the program generally require for a DUI offense?

ARD is the acronym for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. ARD can be explained as a "probation without verdict" type of program, meaning that the program imposes a punishment but does not result in a conviction of the offense. By avoiding the conviction, a person is often able to avoid having a long term criminal record that can inhibit a person's ability to obtain employment and possibly be professionally licensed by the state. The "punishment" or conditions and requirements of ARD are often relatively severe and onerous. For example, an ARD-DUI program often imposes 6 to 12 months of supervision by a probation officer, completion of a 12.5 hour alcohol highway safety school, community service, suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges, payment of approximately $2,000.00 to $2,500.00 in costs and fees to the court, and alcohol counseling.

The requirements and conditions vary slightly from county to county, and some counties are more amenable to transferring ARD to other counties for non-residents. For example, many counties will transfer the 12.5 hour Alcohol Highway Safety School, commonly called the DUI class, to other counties. The Centre County ARD program sometimes allow for the DUI class to be taken online. Since every county's ARD program for DUI cases is slightly different, you should talk to a DUI defense attorney that has experience with the particular county in which you have been charged.

Successful completion of the ARD program allows the person to file petitions or motions with the court to have the charges dismissed and then expunged from the criminal records that are maintained by the government. The expungement of DUI charges for the completion of ARD does not allow a person to expunge records maintained by private people or companies, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is permitted to keep a notation of the ARD disposition for the DUI offense on a person's driving record. There are limitations to an expungement related to DUI offenses upon successful completion of ARD.

In Pennsylvania, ARD is considered a "prior offense" of DUI, so another DUI offense occurring within 10 years of the date of ARD placement would be considered a subsequent offense and thereby subject the person to increased mandatory minimum penalties. In order to readily track an ARD disposition in a DUI case, a notation regarding the ARD-related license suspension is made on the person's Pennsylvania driving record, and the driving record cannot be expunged for 10 years.

While ARD is not considered to be a "conviction" for most purposes, such as criminal records questions, it is considered a "conviction" for people that possess a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Pennsylvania law expressly states that an ARD disposition is a "conviction" of DUI and thereby results in a suspension of CDL privileges. The suspension of CDL privileges is separate from the suspension of normal driving privileges. Therefore, even if the person had a low blood alcohol level and thereby had a 30 day or possibly even know suspension of normal driving privileges, the CDL privileges would be suspended for a longer duration. A first conviction of DUI results in a one year suspension of CDL privileges, and a second conviction of DUI results in a lifetime suspension of CDL privileges.