ARD Program for DUI – Pittsburgh Attorneys
PRACTICE AREA DETAILS
ABOUT THIS PRACTICE AREA
Under Pennsylvania law, every county is required to offer ‘accelerated rehabilitative disposition’ or, as it is commonly known “ARD” programs. The goal of ARD is to allow first time offenders who are non-violent and compliant during their arrest a chance to walk away with a clean public record upon completion. For some, ARD is a great option. The decision to accept ARD is often driven by the risk of conviction vs. the benefits of the program, and the potential sentence if convicted. An experienced attorney can evaluate your unique circumstances and make sure that you are making the right decisions throughout your case, and guide you through the process as quickly and smoothly as possible. We offer the following summary to guide your decision:
WHEN SHOULD I ACCEPT A PLEA OFFER THAT INCLUDES ARD?
Ideally, the first step for anyone charged with DUI is to contact a defense attorney regarding the likelihood of conviction. In order to do that, your lawyer needs to hear your side of the story and review the Criminal Complaint. The state will provide you with a copy of the Criminal Complaint either at your preliminary arraignment, or via certified mail (along with a summons to attend the preliminary hearing). The Criminal Complaint contains all of the specific facts that the arresting officers intend to admit at trial to prove your guilt.
In order to sustain a conviction for DUI, the Commonwealth must present evidence to establish the following:
- The defendant had consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol to render him “unfit” to safely operate a vehicle:
a. A blood sample of a BAC of 0.08 or above; or
b. A breath test showing an average BAC of 0.08 or above.
- That the defendant had “operated” or was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle after consuming enough alcohol.
In order to be convicted “beyond a reasonable doubt” the Commonwealth has to firmly establish these facts. Proof of guilt cannot be based on suspicion of conjecture. See our blog post to learn about the requirement of physical operation: Sleeping It Off In The Car – Charged with DUI. Circumstantial evidence is not always enough to prove that a person had driven after drinking.
Secondly, in order for the evidence to be admissible, it must have been properly obtained. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects all citizens from “unreasonable search and seizure,” which includes traffic stops. Prior to initiating a traffic stop, police officers must have had “reasonable suspicion” that a crime or traffic violation has taken place. Many police departments are outfitted with body cameras and vehicle dash cameras. This footage can often determine whether probable cause for your traffic stop was proper.
Additionally, the police must inform you of your rights at various points in time before they can ask you to submit to chemical testing of your blood alcohol level. Also, there are specific protocols for handling blood alcohol evidence. If the arresting officers fail to comply with any of the above-requirements, some or all of the evidence can be “suppressed.” Meaning, the evidence cannot be shown to the jury, and therefore, the Commonwealth cannot prove that you are guilty.
After the preliminary hearing, the prosecuting attorney will make an offer to enter the ARD program, if you are eligible. It is essentially a “take it or leave it” kind of offer. The plea offer will be permanently withdrawn if it is not accepted before the next step in the process. Which means, you cannot ‘roll the dice’ and ask the judge to suppress certain evidence, and then if it does not go your way, accept an offer to enter ARD. Either you go to trial or you take an ARD plea deal early on.
These issues require an intimate understanding of the law and you should not attempt to defend your case without an experienced lawyer. A trusted lawyer can offer you peace of mind and you will know that you are making the right decision.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR ARD?
First time DUI offenders, with no significant prior criminal record, are usually eligible for ARD. Unless one of the following applies:
- Arrested for DUI with a minor under 14 in the vehicle;
- Involved in an accident involving personal injury or death to another;
- Received ARD or similar diversionary program prior to this case; or
- Had a DUI within the last ten years.
Contact one of our attorneys to determine your eligibility.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ARD PROGRAM?
An attorney can make an application for your entry into the ARD program. The sentencing requirements are greatly reduced for those who enter the program:
- Alcohol and Highway Safety School (minimum 12.5 hours);
- Substance Abuse Treatment as recommended following a CRN and Drug and Alcohol Assessment;
- Six months of Intermediate Punishment (Probation);
- Restitution (payment for property damage);
- Court Costs and Fines ($300.00 – $5,000.00 under the law. Typically no more than $900.00);
- License Suspension.
Depending on the tier of the offense the following will also apply:
First Tier: no license suspension.
Second Tier: 30 days license suspension.
Third Tier: 60 day license suspension. This includes a charge with a refusal of chemical testing or a DUI resulting in accident with non-serious bodily injury or damage to property.
*90 day license suspension if the driver is a minor.
See our web page to learn which tier of offense applies to your case. Understanding PA DUI Laws: A General Overview.
Fortunately, upon successful completion of all program requirements, your criminal record will be “expunged” or destroyed. Employers and private persons will not be able to tell that you were ever arrested for DUI. In most instances, you cannot be compelled to disclose that information to private employers. (You should always ask an attorney about your duty to disclose).
These requirements may vary depending on your unique circumstances and the county in which you case was filed.
Pennsylvania DUI law is complex and has many exceptions. Please do not attempt to defend yourself. Contact an experienced defense attorney. None of the above information should be taken as complete legal advice.