For Pennsylvanians with no prior record who have been charged with certain crimes, there may be an alternative to going through a trial or pleading guilty. The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a way for some criminal defendants in Pennsylvania to avoid the risk of jail or prison.
However, there are some myths about the ARD program. Before agreeing to participate in an ARD program to take care of a DUI or other charge, you should know the truth.
Myth #1: going through ARD makes the charge disappear
Some people believe that by getting approved for ARD by the district attorney and completing the terms of the alternate sentence, they are erasing the charges from their record. The truth is, the conviction is sealed upon completion of the sentence, which usually involves probation, community service, fines and court costs. But if you are ever charged and convicted of a second crime down the line, the penalties you face will be more severe than they would have been otherwise due to your having gone through ARD.
Myth #2: ARD cleans up my driving record
Getting accepted into ARD for a DUI or other traffic-related offense affects your criminal record, not your driving record. You may still have your driver’s license suspended or face other penalties, such as having to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle to get your license back.
Myth #3: getting approved for ARD is simple
Nobody automatically qualifies for the ARD program. First, the charges against you must be non-violent crimes. Second, you must apply to the district attorney to get into ARD instead of the traditional criminal process. District attorneys do not accept everyone who applies.
ARD is a useful tool that keeps many Pennsylvanians out of jail for first offenses. But you should know all your options, potentially including fighting to get the charges dropped or prevailing at trial.