Everyone makes mistakes. For some college students, however, a mistake or an attempt at "harmless fun" could have serious effects on your future. Just one misdemeanor criminal conviction or arrest tied to your name could make it hard to find a job once you graduate. It could mean being unable to move to a different state to explore new possibilities.
For many first-time offenders, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers a program known as "Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition" (ARD). The program is rehabilitative instead of punitive, and helps many first-time and non-violent offenders remain as contributing members of society instead of derailing their futures.
Do I Qualify?
The prosecutor has discretion over who will gain admission to the ARD program. Typically, people arrested for charges like DUI, drug possession and disorderly conduct can gain admission to the program, provided they meet certain conditions:
- Complete drug or alcohol treatment
- Perform community service
- Pay court fees and restitution
- Submit to court-monitored supervision
The ARD program is similar to probation, and your program cannot last longer than two years. If you successfully complete your program, you will avoid having a conviction on your record. You can also petition the court to expunge your record, which means if anyone performs a background check on you, they will find no evidence of your arrest. Essentially, you will get a fresh start.
Talk To An Attorney About Your Options
Each county in Pennsylvania runs its ARD program differently. Additionally, any mistakes or not following the terms of your program could mean prosecutors will choose to try your case. A conviction could mean time in jail, fines and a tarnished record.
An experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the ARD program can help walk you through the process and work with the prosecutor to help you secure eligibility. Additionally, your lawyer can help you determine if you have a defensible case and seek a dismissal of the charges before you ever start your ARD program.