The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a popular pretrial diversion option for first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania. You could qualify even if you refused the blood alcohol content (BAC) test when the police stopped you or responded to a crash and arrested you.
If you face DUI charges in Pennsylvania, you should consider enlisting the help of a criminal defense lawyer familiar with the ARD program. The applicable laws require you to have an attorney handling your case to apply and get accepted into ARD.
Who Decides If I Can Enroll in the ARD Program?
Each county handles administering the ARD program a little differently. According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the county’s ARD Chief examines each application for the program individually. The ARD Chief—or the Office of the District Attorney in some counties—can determine if you can enroll in the program despite a BAC test refusal.
Pennsylvania has strict implied consent laws, so you could face these charges and penalties in addition to a DUI charge.
Still, those reviewing ARD applications might accept you into the program based on the facts and circumstances related to your arrest. Having a DUI attorney familiar with this program and its goals gives you the best chance of enrolling.
What Is the ARD Program?
The ARD program is a pretrial diversion program unique to Pennsylvania courts. It is approved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly under 75 PA C.S. § 3807. The program’s purpose is to offer first-time offenders a second chance if they complete six months to a year of court-monitored rehabilitation and show motivation to avoid rearrest.
Each county sets the criteria for its programs, and each application is reviewed based on its own merits. However, those accepted into the program following a DUI or alcohol-related arrest typically meet some or all of the following criteria:
- They do not have a criminal record.
- It is their first DUI arrest or first arrest in at least ten years.
- They have not previously participated in the ARD program.
- If they caused a collision, there were no serious injuries.
- There were no minors under age 14 in the car at the time of their arrest.
As you can see, these qualifications do not mention implied consent or the results of BAC testing. While some circumstances might not support acceptance into the ARD program, refusing the BAC test alone should not prevent you from being accepted.
Not all who apply receive acceptance, though. The District Attorney’s Office might deny your enrollment for another reason.
What Must I Do to Complete the ARD Program Successfully?
Once accepted into the ARD program and admitted into the ARD program by a Common Pleas Judge, you will learn about the conditions of the program. These may be specific to your needs or generally applied to everyone enrolled in the program for a DUI offense in your county.
Conditions could include:
- Completing an assessment for alcohol dependence or drug addiction
- Attending counseling or treatment, if recommended after the assessment
- Going to Alcohol Highway Safety School
- Completing community service if assigned
- Paying restitution to any victims injured in a DUI crash you caused
- Paying any fines or fees
- Regularly reporting as necessary during six to 12 months of supervision/probation
The goals of this program are rehabilitative. Participants should not consider any of these items as penalties. Instead, they can avoid prosecution and a criminal conviction by successfully completing the necessary tasks and finishing the program.
What Happens When a Participant Does Not Complete the ARD Program?
If you fail to complete the ARD requirements or are rearrested during this period, the District Attorney’s Office has the option to remove you from the program. This could mean that prosecutors proceed with your criminal case. You would need to enter a plea and face the possibility of going to trial.
If you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will likely be suspended for a year or more. In addition, the police could obtain a warrant and take blood to establish your BAC. With this evidence, you could be convicted of a DUI if you do not successfully complete the ARD program.
A DUI conviction could bring jail time, fines, community service, probation, and more.
Is the ARD Program the Best Option Based on My Case Facts?
Under some circumstances, the ARD program may not be a good fit for you. This program requires you to work with a criminal defense attorney who should assess your options before deciding to apply to the program on your behalf. During this evaluation, they might discover better options based on your case.
They might recommend pursuing another option if:
- It might be possible to get the charges dropped.
- The BAC evidence is likely inadmissible at trial because of testing issues.
- You have a strong defense that could win your case at trial.
- The penalties you will face are minor and will end sooner than the time it takes to complete the ARD program.
While the ARD program is a good option for those hoping to avoid conviction and get the arrest expunged from their record, it is not always the best option. Some might not qualify; others could get a more favorable outcome with a different defense strategy. The best way to determine if the ARD program is the best option for you is to discuss it with a DUI defense attorney.
Speak to Our DUI Defense Team Today About Your Options
McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., represents those facing arrest and charges of DUI, drug crimes, and more. We handle ARD applications for many clients and can help you understand if this program is a good fit for you.
Contact us today to get started.