Bad judgment is an unfortunate part of the human condition.

However, if you stand in a first-time accusation of certain minor charges, Pennsylvania offers an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program, which can dramatically reduce the consequences of your mistake.

What is the purpose of the ARD program?

According to Pennsylvania Title 234 Chapter 3, The primary purpose of the ARD program is to rehabilitate first-time offenders and prevent them from escalating to more serious charges. ARD could offer you a chance to emerge from your transgression with a clean record after you complete the prescribed rehabilitations. The courts understand that you may not necessarily re-offend, and if you qualify, you deserve an opportunity to prove yourself capable of acting within the law.

What offenses are eligible for the ARD program?

The ARD program does not outline specific offenses that are eligible, but leave the determination to the prosecuting district attorney. Generally speaking, the program serves first-time, non-violent minor offenses that do not seriously breach the public trust. A few examples could include simple possession of illegal substances, first-time DUI, harassment and petty theft (e.g., skipping out on a restaurant check).

What are the program steps?

If your attorney believes that you are a candidate for the ARD program, he or she will have to file a motion for the court to consider your eligibility. During a hearing, a judge explains the rehabilitative programs you must complete along with the consequences for failing to do so.

Rehabilitation frequently includes directives like community service and court costs. If your charges stem from drug or alcohol issues, the court may require you to participate in counseling and random testing. Most importantly, you must not receive any additional criminal arrests during your rehabilitation.