The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, commonly known as ARD, is frequently brought up as a potential resolution to charges, especially when the charges are first-time offenses. Technically a first-time offenders program, ARD is sometimes offered or negotiated by criminal defense attorneys, even in situations where there are prior charges.
ARD results in the complete dismissal of charges and the expunging of the arrest from your record—so there are no “criminal consequences” to ARD. It comes without any jail time and no formal probation. And ARD can even reduce the license suspension you face in a DUI.
But are there any drawbacks to accepting ARD?
First, private parties are legally able to use ARD against you. One simple example of this is when your car insurance company raises your rates as a result of ARD. Some insurance companies use this as an admission of guilt even though the court system does not. Insurance companies use a number of factors to set your rate, including your age, your level of education, the neighborhood in which you live and more. Another factor they can weigh is your participation in ARD.
A second way ARD can be used against you is by colleges. Colleges sometimes discipline students for the actions that led to the ARD. Sometimes colleges will treat ARD as an admission of guilt, although there are some constitutional limits to how public universities handle these matters. Private colleges, however, will use ARD participation however they wish to in most cases.
Third, Pennsylvania courts have recently weighed in with suggestions that ARD can be used against a witness in a civil proceeding. While ARD is not proof that someone committed a crime, it can be brought up on cross-examination by another party’s attorney.
Fourth, in limited family law contexts, an ARD may be brought up as part of a custody or divorce proceeding to justify why your outcome should be different than the other parties.
Fifth, although ARD may result in expungement of charges, if your employer finds out about your participation in ARD, whether recently or in years’ past, there is not currently any law prohibiting the employer from terminating you. Some companies even have policies stating that ARD or other so-called diversionary programs will disqualify you from being a driver of any of their fleet vehicles.
Conclusion: ARD is great, but it can have drawbacks
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about ARD. Deciding to accept or reject ARD is an important decision that should be made with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is able to help you determine whether you should consider pleading guilty, fight your charges, or accept an ARD plan. Although ARD is a great outcome in many cases, there are times when it should not be accepted. Contact Cornerstone Law Firm today to discuss your options.