If you have been charged with a crime, you may have heard about Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (better known as ARD). ARD is a program made available by the Pennsylvania legislature for first-time, non-violent offenders that allows for alternate punishments (rather than jail time or other traditional punishments) and results in a total expungement of an individual’s record at the end of the process.

ARD is meant to be a program to allow individuals who have made a one-time mistake in their life to be able to clear their record and remain a productive member of society. Some attorneys jokingly call ARD “the get out of jail free card,” but ARD is a serious program and it should be taken seriously. Here are a few things that you should know about ARD if you have been charged with a first-time, non-violent offense in Pennsylvania.

  1. ARD is a program offered by the District Attorney.

ARD is not a program that is available to just anyone. It is offered, essentially as a matter of grace, by the District Attorney of a specific county. In other words, you can not simply walk into Court and demand ARD. The judge cannot give it to you and no one else can promise it to you. It is only the District Attorney’s representatives who are able to confirm whether you will be on ARD or not. Factors as to whether you can get into the ARD program include whether your arresting officer or any alleged victims in your case object, whether you are willing and able to pay restitution to anyone who has been wronged as a result of your actions, and whether you are willing to be timely and cooperative with all requirements of the ARD program.

In exchange for offering you ARD, they will also require you to waive all of your typical rights, including your right to challenge evidence gathered against you, your right to a preliminary hearing to see how strong the prosecution’s case is, and other rights. Accordingly, the question of whether to seek or accept ARD is a very important question that should be considered with the advice of an attorney.

  1. ARD will not save you from the typical costs of restitution and fines.

Some people think that ARD is a way to get around paying large fines as a result of a crime. This is not the case. ARD typically will result in you being assessed with the full fines that you would otherwise pay. In addition, you will be subject to other reporting and payment requirements, including reporting regularly to an adult probation officer. The precise requirements of the ARD program depend on the crime that you were charged with, as well as what the District Attorney wants to request in exchange for your admission to the ARD program. In some cases, they will require anger management classes, alcohol and drug assessment and counseling, restitution, sitting before a victim impact panel of people who have been impacted by the crime that you are alleged to have committed, and community service. ARD can last anywhere between six (6) months to two (2) years depending on the crime that you are charged with and the deal that is worked out with the prosecutor. Accordingly, it is not only important that you try to “get on ARD,” but it is also important that your attorney negotiate for you, if possible, to receive lesser fines and other requirements.

  1. ARD Results in Expungement

The biggest and most important thing that ARD does for someone accused of a crime is it results in expungement. This means that your criminal record will be non-existent, if you are accepted into and complete the ARD program. Particularly for younger people, and for those with careers that require a clean criminal record, this is extremely important. A criminal record can follow you; it can keep you from getting jobs; it can even impact your family and personal relationships. Accordingly, ARD is a unique opportunity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for individuals who are charged with crimes to escape the long-term damage that comes with a criminal record.

Conclusion: Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney

But ARD is not for everyone. ARD requires you to give up important rights in your individual case, and as noted above, it is a one-time offer. Sometimes individuals give up their ARD, “get out of jail free card”, on a case that never should have been brought and should have been challenged in the first instance by an effective defense attorney. Accordingly, a few years later, if charged with a very real crime, they are left without this option that would have otherwise been available to them.

If you have been charged with a crime and are considering ARD, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Cornerstone Law Firm today to discuss your options. ARD is not for everyone and sometimes it can be a bad decision to try to apply for it. For many, ARD is an outstanding solution, and our attorneys can help you assess whether ARD is a good outcome for you or not. Call us today at 610-926-7875 and let us help you navigate your unique situation.