Like many states, Pennsylvania has a program for first-time offenders that allows them to avoid being convicted of the crime with which they are charged, provided they meet the conditions of the program. Known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, the program aims to rehabilitate offenders rather than impose criminal sentences.
As one recent news story observed, and as the state legislature realized, the state’s new drunk-driving law contains a flaw. Since August 25, 2017, when the new DUI law went into effect, first-time DUI offenders with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent or more are faced with a choice. They can decide to plead guilty, install an interlock ignition device, and keep their driving privileges, or enter ARD and avoid a DUI conviction—but face a 30 to 90-day license suspension.
ARD is a diversionary program that allows first-time offenders to meet certain conditions and, at the conclusion of the program, expunge their records. The program is intended for first-time offenders who are willing to submit to treatment and rehabilitation rather than face criminal penalties.
First-time DUI offenders who participate in the program will not have DUI convictions on their records. Unfortunately for them, under the new DUI statute, entering ARD carries a 30 to 90-day license suspension, plus court-imposed options like community service. Too late, the state legislature realized the negative incentive to opt for ARD, and passed another law allowing ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders in the ARD program. That provision, however, will not go into effect until October 20, 2018.
People eligible for the program file applications with the court. If the court approves the application, it usually puts the person on probation, and may require payment of fines and costs associated with probation, and may order completion of community service. Upon successfully completing the requirements imposed by the court, ARD participants can petition the court to expunge their records, and if the court grants this, they will have no DUI convictions on their records.
The advantages of not having a DUI conviction on your record are many and obvious. If you hold a commercial driver’s license, a DUI conviction will prevent you from working as a commercial truck driver. If you drive a company vehicle, a DUI could restrict your ability to perform your job and even lead to your dismissal. Consult an attorney to see how you can avoid those and other consequences.
If you were arrested on DUI charges in the Philadelphia area, consult a criminal defense attorney to explore your options. You might be eligible for the ARD program and can avoid having a DUI conviction on your record. The attorneys at The Skinner Law Firm can help. Reach us at (610) 436-1410 or through our online contact form.