By Robert M. Going, Attorney
Drivers in Lancaster County, PA, are considered legally impaired if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or greater. If a driver is underage, the BAC tolerance drops to .02. And while alcohol-related fatalities account for nearly 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the commonwealth, DUIs are also issued when law enforcement encounters motorists impaired by drugs or prescription medication.
A DUI charge can change the life of a Lancaster County driver in an instant. Depending on the circumstances surrounding an arrest, convicted DUI drivers can face probation, license suspension, steep fines, and possible jail time under Pennsylvania law.
Because the implications of a DUI are severe and far-reaching, Pennsylvania also offers the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. When ARD is an option, drivers may be able to reduce the longer-lasting consequences of a DUI conviction. Here’s what you need to know about DUIs and ARDs in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania:
For First-Time Offenders Only
In Pennsylvania, the ARD is available to first-time DUI offenders only. For the driver, the ARD program is the opportunity to keep the DUI charge off their record. But the program also offers benefits to the state. By focusing on early rehabilitation, the program reduces the burden on the criminal justice system. When ARDs are implemented, they also save the state the cost of court proceedings while freeing up state resources for other purposes.
Must Meet All Program Requirements
In Lancaster County, admittance into the ARD program carries a license suspension of anywhere between zero and 90 days and 15 to 50 community service hours, depending on the blood alcohol content recorded.
To be admitted to the ARD program in Lancaster County, drivers must agree to remain under probation-like supervision for up to two years. They also must complete an assessment for drug and alcohol addiction, participate in any necessary drug or alcohol treatment program, complete highway safety training courses, fulfill community service assignments, and pay any associated fines and fees.
While in the ARD program, charges against the offender are essentially put on hold. However, failing to complete any part of the program or violating its terms results in removal from the program. DUI charges return to the court docket when this happens, and the defendant proceeds to trial.
Qualifications are Clearly Defined
ARD is a form of lenient probation, so in Lancaster County, the District Attorney decides who is admitted into the program.
However, before the District Attorney considers ARD, the participant must first meet the state-mandated qualifications. They must be arrested in Lancaster County for driving under the influence. They must carry valid auto insurance and have a clean driving record prior to the DUI arrest. If the driver caused injury to people or damage to property, they are not eligible for the program.
Any driver that has been charged with DUI in the past ten years can’t participate in the program. In addition, any driver that was charged with a DUI while a passenger under the age of 14 was in the vehicle will not qualify. Similarly, if the driver has had a suspended license, or a blood alcohol level over 0.30 percent, they will not be eligible for consideration.
What Happens if a Driver Is Denied ARD?
Admittance into the ARD program is not automatic. Many people weigh in on the decision. Even if the DA’s office recommends ARD, the presiding judge retains the final say on whether an offender gains admittance to the ARD program and how long the program will last.
However, even if the district attorney has already denied admittance to the program, a DUI attorney can take additional measures to reverse the decision, such as seeking character references and a recommendation from the arresting officer.
That’s why Lancaster County drivers arrested for DUI should hire an experienced Lancaster ARD lawyer who can present adequate evidence and a well-reasoned argument for admission into the program.
Is ARD Always the Best Option?
Offenders who believe they are innocent or for whom driving is their livelihood should consult a Lancaster ARD attorney to decide whether to opt for the program or take the case to trial.
While the ARD program may seem like the easiest way for an offender to clear their driving record, lower fines, shorten a license suspension, and possibly avoid mandatory jail time, it is not without its consequences. In addition to the mandatory requirements of the program, ARD participants are subject to six months to a year of probation and fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.
Additionally, even though completion of the program may result in a clean record, the ARD will still count as a first or prior offense should the defendant get another DUI conviction within the next ten years. That second offense typically carries stiffer penalties, including some form of mandatory prison term.
Contact Going and Plank for ARD and DUI Representation
A DUI arrest can impact the driver’s life for decades. Even the most lenient sentences can include fines and suspension. A DUI can also be a barrier to many jobs and careers. That’s why reviewing charges with an experienced Lancaster ARD lawyer is crucial. Contact the Law Offices of Going and Plank to schedule a case evaluation today.
Want to read more about DUIs and ARDs in Lancaster County? Check out these articles and blogs.