“Can I get ARD?” It’s a question that I hear often in Philadelphia. If you’re charged with a crime and you have an otherwise clean record, you may qualify for ARD. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. As its name suggests, the primary purpose of the program is rehabilitation - it offers you a fresh start after completion of a probationary program. If you successfully complete ARD, the charges are dismissed and the case may qualify for automatic expungement.
ARD is available in summary matters, as well as many misdemeanor and some felony cases. The way it works right now in Philadelphia (April 2020), people facing misdemeanor charges (those listed for a Municipal Court trial) can apply for ARD right away. If there are felony charges, the case first must go through a preliminary hearing before an ARD application. This is a different procedure than in some of the counties around Philadelphia - in the counties, you’ll often be asked to waive the preliminary hearing in exchange for ARD consideration.
If accepted into ARD, you’ll have to pay the costs of the program, which are generally under $500.00 but could be more in certain circumstances. You’ll also have to pay restitution, if any. In most cases, the court will impose a term of probation, but there will be no guilty plea and no conviction. If you’re concerned about probation, your attorney can request that you report by phone if there’s a good reason for it - for example, if you can show you’re working during the time you would otherwise have to report.
If you successfully complete ARD, prosecution is withdrawn and the charges are dismissed. Charges will be expunged automatically within a few months of successful completion. (See Pa. R.Crim.P. 320). However, automatic expungement will not happen unless all court costs and other charges are paid in full.
What happens if your ARD application is denied? Your attorney can request reconsideration. It’s not considered an appeal per se, but your attorney should learn as much as possible about your circumstances and put together a written submission with reasons why your case should be accepted.
Is ARD worth it? Most of the time, it's definitely worth it, even with the costs and term of probation. That’s because there are great benefits to having a clean record as opposed to even one criminal conviction. But what if you can beat the case - shouldn’t you fight it? That’s a situation to discuss with your attorney, after weighing all the risks and benefits of each option.
You can find more information on ARD under chapter three of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules 300 to 320. Call me at 215-242-9000, and we’ll set up a time to discuss whether ARD will work for you.