What is ARD?

ARD - short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition - is a diversionary program available to first-time offenders in Pennsylvania. It offers eligible defendants the opportunity to have their charges dismissed and expunged from their criminal record upon successful completion of the program. To complete the program, the defendant must comply with a series of conditions set by the court during a period of probationary supervision. Naturally, entrance into the ARD program is the preferred course of action for most first-time offenders charged with a crime in PA.

Who is eligible for ARD?

Criminal defendants with no prior criminal convictions are eligible for the ARD program.  In addition, a defendant whose criminal record is comprised exclusively of "stale" convictions (convictions that are 10 or more years old) may be considered for the ARD program.

What charges are eligible for ARD?

Although the charge most commonly associated with ARD is Driving Under the Influence (DUI), ANY criminal charge can be adjudicated through the ARD program. Entry into the program is discretionary however, meaning the District Attorney will ultimately determine who will be offered ARD based on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding each case. In cases involving victims - whether police officers or civilians - the DA will most likely require victim consent before offering entry into ARD.

Advantages of the ARD program in DUI cases

Besides providing first-time offenders with the obvious advantage of having the charges dismissed and expunged from their criminal record, the ARD program has additional benefits in DUI cases. These benefits include shorter license suspensions and no jail time.

Procedure for entering the ARD program

The District Attorney initiates the ARD proceedings by filing a Motion for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition with the appropriate Court of Commons Pleas judge. Once the ARD motion is filed, a hearing on that motion is scheduled and notice of the hearing date is provided to the defendant and the defendant's attorney. At that hearing, the judge reads the terms and conditions of ARD to the defendant in open court. The defendant then states to the judge that he accepts the conditions and agrees to comply.  At that point, the DA's motion is granted and the defendant is formally admitted into the ARD program.

How long will I be on ARD probation?

The ARD probationary period varies based on the charges, the conditions imposed, and the specific facts underlying the case. However, the probationary period cannot exceed two years.

What happens if I violate or fail to complete ARD?

When a defendant violates a condition of ARD, the DA will file a motion with the ARD judge alleging that a violation occurred. A hearing is scheduled and the defendant is given an opportunity to be heard. If the judge ultimately finds that a condition of ARD was violated, he can order that the defendant be revoked from the ARD program. If that occurs, the case is then scheduled for trial before another Court of Common Pleas judge.

It is important to note that a defendant is still entitled to fight the charges against him after being revoked from ARD. This is because a conviction is never entered onto the record upon entry into the ARD program. The underlying criminal charges remain pending while a defendant is under ARD probationary supervision.

Final thoughts

The ARD program offers first-time offenders a second chance at maintaining a clean criminal record. Accordingly, it is the preferred course of action for almost all first-time offenders in PA. However, because the ARD program is discretionary in nature, it is important that defendants are represented by experienced legal counsel to ensure entry into ARD.

For that reason, if you are currently facing criminal charges as a first-time offender in PA, you need to call or text (412) 589-9422 to speak to an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney at Bishop Law immediately.

Our only goal is to get your charges dismissed.