At a Philadelphia Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class, I overhead a lawyer tell another lawyer, “Whenever ARD is offered, you should always take the deal.” He is wrong.
ARD stands for Alternative Rehabilitative Disposition. It is a program offered by the district attorney to most first-time DUI offenders. The defendant pays court costs, attends classes, and serves probation. If no further arrests are made during probation, the DUI charge is withdrawn. The defendant can then file an expungement. Defendant’s who successfully complete ARD will not have a criminal conviction.
ARD is not as good as a verdict of not guilty. There are significant differences between the two. This blog post will explore those differences.
A defendant who accepts ARD is facing thousands of dollars in additional costs. The defendant usually must pay over $500.00 to the courts. In addition, the defendant must pay hundreds of dollars on drug and alcohol classes. A defendant who is found not guilty pays no such costs.
A defendant who enters the ARD program faces up to two years probation. The defendant will pay $50.00 per month in probation supervision costs. If arrested on another charge, the ARD entrant can be jailed and tried for the original DUI. A defendant who is found not guilty is not on probation, and does not pay supervision costs. In the event of subsequent arrest, he cannot be jailed for a violation of probation.
CRIN evaluation / Drug and Alcohol Classes:
Defendants who submit to ARD must attend drug and alcohol classes at the discretion of the courts. The courts submit all ARD entrants to a CRIN evaluation. At the evaluation, a counselor determines the seriousness of your substance abuse problems. If they consider you a serious abuser, you may have to attend many classes. The classes are expensive. Defendants who are found not guilty do not submit to a CRIN and take no classes.
When a defendant accepts ARD there is a tacit admission of wrongdoing. In situations where the defendant is adamant they are innocent, accepting ARD is an inferior option.
Risk of Being Found Guilty:
A defendant who accepts ARD is forgoing the risk of a guilty conviction. On the other hand, the defendant who decides to fight the case faces the possibility of a conviction. If convicted, the defendant who chose to fight the case may face the prospect of court costs, incarceration, and a permanent criminal record. Thus, ARD is a better option if there is a good possibility the case cannot be won.
Accepting ARD may avoid a criminal conviction. However, if you are innocent and there is evidence to support your case, ARD should never be accepted. In the end, it is not better than a verdict of not guilty. If you are innocent, it makes sense to fight. After all, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.