Skilled Legal Representation For the People of Philadelphia & Beyond SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

Bucks County ARD Program | Bucks County DUI Attorneys

Town Law Publishing May 28, 2024

ARD Bucks County

Understanding the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program in Bucks County, PA

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is a pre-trial diversionary program designed for first-time, non-violent offenders. The primary goal of ARD is to rehabilitate individuals and avoid the negative consequences of a criminal conviction. This program is particularly beneficial for those charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol or a controlled substance, as successful completion can lead to dismissal of charges and expungement of the offender's criminal record. Here’s an in-depth look at the ARD program, eligibility requirements, and the process involved.

What is ARD?

The ARD program is intended to provide first-time offenders an opportunity to avoid the stigma and penalties associated with a criminal conviction. Instead of going through a traditional trial and facing potential incarceration, eligible defendants can complete a set of requirements. Upon successful completion, the charges are dismissed, and the individual's record is expunged according to Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure Rules 319 and 320.

Eligibility Requirements for ARD

Eligibility for the ARD program is determined by the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office (DA’s Office) and involves several criteria:

  1. Waiver of Preliminary Hearing: The defendant must waive their preliminary hearing.

  2. Form Submission: The ARD application form must be completed and submitted to the Magisterial District Court before the preliminary hearing date.

  3. No Prior Convictions: The defendant must not have any prior misdemeanor or felony convictions, nor any pending charges in any jurisdiction.

  4. No Previous ARD: The defendant must not have previously been placed in an ARD program or its equivalent for any misdemeanor or felony.

  5. Nature of the Charge: The current charges must not involve crimes of violence, sexual offenses, use of a deadly weapon, significant property damage, or any serious felony offenses.

  6. Waiver of Speedy Trial Rights: The defendant must waive their right to a speedy trial from the date of the ARD application until the final disposition of their case.

  7. Court Costs: Defendants must make a payment towards court costs before being placed in the ARD program, unless represented by the Public Defender’s Office.

  8. Specific DUI Criteria: For DUI charges, additional criteria include no accidents causing injury or significant property damage, no minors in the vehicle, and valid driver's license and insurance at the time of the offense.

The ARD Process

Application and Conditional Approval

The process begins with the defendant waiving their preliminary hearing and submitting the ARD application form. The DA’s Office reviews the application and makes a conditional determination before the formal arraignment. If conditionally approved, an ARD court date is scheduled.

ARD Hearing and Final Approval

At the ARD hearing, if the application receives final approval, the defendant is formally placed into the program. If not approved, the defendant will receive a rejection letter, and the case will proceed to trial.

Program Requirements

Once accepted into ARD, the defendant must complete several requirements, including:

  • Community Service: A minimum of ten hours at a nonprofit organization.

  • Court Costs and Fines: Payment of all court costs and fines.

  • Alcohol Highway Safety School: For DUI offenders, completion of this school is mandatory.

  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment: If recommended, completion of a treatment program is required.

  • CRN Evaluation: For DUI offenders, a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation is necessary, and in some cases, a Drug and Alcohol Assessment.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with the terms of the ARD program or being arrested for a new offense during the ARD term will result in removal from the program. The DA’s Office will then file a praecipe to list the case for trial on the original charges.

Expungement and Future Implications

Upon successful completion of the ARD program, the charges are dismissed, and the offender’s criminal record is expunged. However, if the individual commits a subsequent DUI or retail theft offense within ten years, the ARD disposition will be considered a prior offense, leading to harsher penalties for the new offense.

The ARD program in Bucks County offers a valuable second chance for first-time, non-violent offenders to avoid a criminal record and the severe consequences associated with certain charges, especially DUI. By understanding the eligibility requirements, the application process, and the commitments involved, defendants can make informed decisions about seeking ARD. Successful completion of the program not only provides a fresh start but also emphasizes the importance of rehabilitation and responsible behavior moving forward.

For more detailed information or to apply for the ARD program, defendants are encouraged to contact us today for a free consultation. Our team of Bucks County DUI attorneys is always available to help.