WHAT IS ARD?
ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. It is a program designed to address several goals: to rehabilitate the offender, to dispose of charges promptly, and to eliminate the need for costly and time-consuming trials or other court proceedings.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR ARD?
The ARD program is geared to addressing offenders who lend themselves toward treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment. This translates, lacking special circumstances, to first-time offenders who have never been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, in or outside of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
WHAT CRIMES ARE ELIGIBLE FOR ARD?
ARD is reserved for charged crimes that are relatively minor and do not involve a serious breach of the public trust. Typical offenses are DUI, Retail Theft, Theft, Criminal Mischief, and other Misdemeanors. Montgomery County does not give ARD for minor drug cases, which can be handled by a similar program known as Section 17.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ARD?
There are a number of substantial benefits of the ARD program. First, the end result is not a conviction. Rather, the offense is dismissed if the offender complies with all of the ARD conditions successfully, and thereafter, the records themselves may be suitable for expungement. Thereafter, one’s records may be kept clean for future purposes such as employment consideration. Secondly, ARD does not result in a jail sentence which, depending on the specifics of the crime charged, may be warranted. Thirdly, ARD may dramatically reduce the period of time one’s license would be suspended, or even eliminate a license suspension altogether.
HOW DOES THE ARD PROCESS WORK?
The offender must apply for ARD in writing, the District Attorney must review, approve, and move for the admission of the applicant into the program, and a Common Pleas Judge would have to grant admission into the program. Thereafter, the offender would be placed on ARD probation and have to comply with prescribed conditions.
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS OF ARD?
The conditions depend on the nature of the crime, or if for a DUI, the level of the offender’s blood alcohol content or which substance the driver was under the influence of. License suspension may range from zero to two months, and typical conditions include performance of community service, payment of fines and costs, and compliance with court-ordered evaluations and treatment programs. Regardless, the offender is required to remain free from further arrest and/or criminal activity.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE BREAKS THE ARD CONDITIONS?
If the offender does not comply with the conditions of the ARD program, then ARD may be terminated and the underlying criminal case may resume from the point at which it left off when ARD was granted.
IS ARD THE SAME ALL ACROSS PENNSYLVANIA?
No. For instance, Montgomery County and Bucks County have special programs whereby someone who completes all of their ARD requirements prior to the first ARD court date can have the probation period shortened to 6 months instead of the normal one year period. Further, Montgomery County has a special program whereby a person can complete safe driving school prior to suffering a license suspension (not everyone gets a suspension).