By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney
Driving while under the influence, also known as DUI, is a criminal offense that could result in severe consequences. A convicted DUI driver can face probation, hefty fines, license suspension, and possible jail time.
There are no discriminations against age or one’s level of experience. The penalties only depend on the level of alcohol in the offender’s system, whether a minor or a commercial driver. It could also come down to the circumstances surrounding their arrest.
Additionally, according to Pennsylvania law, if you’re sleeping in your car while under the influence, police can charge you with DUI. Law enforcement officers may also charge you for DUI if they establish circumstantial evidence that you had or intended to drive while intoxicated.
However, an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program (ARD) offers potential one-time forgiveness for a first-time DUI offender who also meets the associated criteria. Those for whom ARD is an option may find that they can avoid some of the longer-lasting consequences of a DUI conviction.
The voluntary ARD program is for those who want to avoid a criminal conviction. Once the offender completes the program successfully, the charges will be dismissed. However, they will remain on the record and may affect the severity of the subsequent DUI charge.
What Is an ARD?
An Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, is primarily designed to offer first-time offenders a second chance. The purpose of an ARD program is to allow the prompt disposition of criminal charges for people with no criminal record, no previous DUI charges, with a lower level of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and who have not harmed anyone as a result of the DUI.
If granted an ARD, first-time offenders are subjected to probation-like supervision for up to two years. However, they avoid a criminal record if the person does not repeat the behavior.
ARDs are determined county by county. In Lancaster County, the offender must meet several requirements to complete the program. These include assessment for drug and alcohol addiction, drug or alcohol treatment programs, alcohol and highway safety training, community service, and payment of fines and fees.
How Are DUI and ARD Related?
There’s a tough stance in Pennsylvania regarding DUIs. Drivers with illegal BAC levels can expect to be arrested and charged. Anyone given a DUI is looking at severe penalties.
However, in Pennsylvania, state law is not only focused on punishing offenders. Instead, it offers first-time offenders a chance to rehabilitate through the ARD program. The program provides a way to reduce or drop charges for those who agree to complete the program’s requirements. These may include mandatory community service, alcohol counseling, and ignition interlock.
Drivers that qualify for the ARD program have to plead guilty to the DUI charge in court. However, they’ll be able to avoid a criminal record and the consequences that come with it if they complete the program.
Any violation of the terms of the ARD program results in removal from the program. This means the DUI charges will return to court, and the defendant will proceed to trial and face a conviction.
Who Is Eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program?
Participation in the ARD program in Lancaster County rests on the decision of the county’s District Attorney, and not everyone arrested for DUI will be eligible.
To be eligible for ARD, offenders must meet all of the following requirements:
- A first-time offender
- A BAC of less than 0.30% at the time of the arrest
- The license must not have been suspended or revoked during the arrest
- A Lancaster resident or an employee within the county
- Agreement to participate in the ARD program
Is ARD the Best Option?
The Accelerated Rehabilitation Program can be a good option for many first-time offenders. It can shorten license suspension and possibly avoid mandatory jail time. Completion of the program may also result in a clean record save.
However, it comes with consequences, such as the mandatory fulfillment of the program requirements. Participants are also subject to six months to a year of probation and fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,000. In addition, an ARD will count as a first offense should the defendant get another DUI conviction within the next ten years.
Is it Time to Contact Going and Plank?
If you find yourself arrested for a DUI in Lancaster County, your best action is to seek legal help immediately. A DUI attorney can take additional measures to reverse the decision, such as seeking character references and a recommendation from the arresting officer.
DUIs can have severe consequences on all aspects of life. But for some offenders, ARDs offer a way to reduce penalties. To find out more, contact our Law Offices at Going and Plank to see if a case qualifies for consideration.
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