Q: Two years-ago I ended up in ARD and the docket still says awaiting completion. I just finished my community service Wednesday and it still allows me to pay my fines off so I’m not sure if I’m still on it or not. (East Pittsburgh, PA)
A: ARD will not close the case until ALL the requirements of your ARD conditions are completed. This includes all costs and fines, classes, community service, if ordered, etc., etc. The idea is to get through ARD as fast as you can afford it to get off probation.
Q: When I was pulled over for my marijuana DUI the officer said I would get ARD. My kids where in the car and everything I’m reading says I will not be able to get ARD if minors where in the car. The officer also stated he would tell the judge I was very cooperative, but it seems that there isn’t much that can help me. I have a consultation scheduled with a lawyer, but I have very little money. I am the main supporter of my family and it was just Christmas, so I feel I am in a very bad position with no options it is really worrying me. (Rochester, PA)
A: Each county District Attorney sets its own criteria for ARD eligibility. It would not be unusual for crimes like Endangering Children (EWOC) or Recklessly Endangering Another Person to make you ineligible for ARD. In situations where someone in your situation who obviously has no criminal record, the DA can make an exception and drop those additional crimes to allow you to enter ARD on the DUI alone. In my county, it often takes a letter from an attorney asking for this type of exception to be made. Your options are to hire an attorney, or, talk to the officer and see if he will help you out by talking to the DA on your behalf and requesting the charge that makes you ineligible (EWOC) be withdrawn. If this is a plea, I am sure you can find an attorney to work with you on the fee if you call around. You should also talk to the Public Defender in your county to see if you qualify.
Q: I was pulled over for a traffic violation while away at college and was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. I understand that the possibility of being drug tested varies county by county, but I was wondering if Berks County was one that mandates drug tests with their ARD program. My ARD program is a 30 day one. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I would consult with a lawyer before you do anything. You might want to consider trying to get Probation Without Verdict on this first offense, if available. You might want to save the ARD card for your first DUI.
Q: I called the Attorney General’s office yesterday and was told it looks good on my behalf that I’m already making payments towards case. I don’t want to go to jail. I do not have a criminal record, and I honestly do not remember receiving LI-HEAP energy assistance. I honestly do not remember but I believe I was getting child support at that time! However, I do not honestly recall Wesley living here in 2015 or 2016. I believe at the time he was living with his then girlfriend in Maryland but am not sure. I do suffer from ADD and am taking medication for it. (Everett, PA)
A: I do not practice law in your county. In my county people generally do not go to jail for welfare fraud or similar crimes unless the case involves a lot of money and the behavior is indicative of true criminal intent. You need to be represented by an attorney. You may be eligible for a first-time offender’s program called ARD, especially if you can make payments within the limits of your probationary period.
Q: I was very drunk on St Patrick’s Day and don’t remember what happened but was told I was passed out in a street. When police and medics showed up I was put in an ambulance and then I attacked the medics and a nurse and was charged with 2 counts of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and a disorderly conduct. I don’t believe anyone was hurt but I don’t remember a thing. I have no priors. Do I have a chance of getting charges dropped? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Possible, yes. There is a difference between someone who intentionally punches an EMT or Police Officer and someone who is blotto drunk and while flailing their arms around comes in contact with EMT and Police. When I have had these cases, and everything went as well as possible, the results were anywhere from a dismissal in exchange for a D&A evaluation or community service, to ARD, to the defendant pleading guilty to summary offenses. If these cases don’t go well, for example, it is usually where the victims want to push a conviction. If so, you may be lucky to have the charges reduced to Simple Assault. The fact that you have no criminal history is important. Your charges are generally not accepted into ARD, but the DA has the discretion of amending them to let you into the program. This type of case requires a lot of hustle for an attorney and there is no guarantee.
Q: Asking for a friend here. Her BAC was .210 and .181. This is her first DUI. What will happen and how much trouble will she get in. Will she lose her license? Should she get a lawyer? (Baldwin Borough, PA)
A: If she truly has no prior record, is ARD eligible, and, she has no solid defense, ARD would be a good option. Those blood alcohol content readings sound strange due to the disparity, but assuming she is over .159, she will be looking at a 60 day driver license suspension if she is ARD eligible. If not ARD eligible and she pleads guilty or is found guilty, she will receive an 18-month suspension. Have her consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to assess whether she has any defenses and what her options are.
Q: My ex-husband and father of my son had his 1st DUI in 2004 and did the ARD program, his 2nd DUI was in 2012 and he had house arrest, probation and 12-month license suspension. Now he had his 3rd DUI in December 2017. It was my understanding that this would count as his 2nd since the 1st was over 10 years ago. However, I looked up the docket sheet on the public website and it says the charge is: 2 75 § 3802 §§ C* DUI: Highest Rate of Alcohol (BAC .16+) 1st Off. Why would this be only the 1st offense? The offense from August 2012 says: 6 75 § 3802 §§ C* DUI: Highest Rate of Alcohol (BAC .16+) 1st Off and 2 75 § 3802 §§ A1** M DUI: Gen Imp/Inc of Driving Safely – 2nd Off. These all happened in different counties (Allegheny, Butler and Beaver) if that makes a difference, all in Pennsylvania. (MacDonald, PA)
A: The police normally charge DUI’s as a first offense because they usually do not have access to a comprehensive criminal record check at the time of arrest. The charge is more accurately amended when the DA has had time to run a more thorough background check once the case is sent to the Common Plea level. It is likely his prior DUIs will be discovered and this will be his second in ten years, thus charged as a second DUI. He won’t receive any benefit for spreading his drinking and driving among different counties, they are all charged under state law.
Q: My son who is 15, has just been arrested for retail theft. This is a first-time offense. Do I need a lawyer for this case? Can he be referred to the ARD program? (South Side, Pittsburgh)
A: ARD is an adult criminal court alternative to prosecution. While there is no alternative disposition called “ARD” in juvenile court, there are similar programs for first time juvenile offenders who qualify. One is where they divert the case to a juvenile probation program, sometimes called an intake disposition. The other is a “consent decree” whereby if the juvenile successfully completes probation with conditions, he or she is not adjudicated delinquent.
Q: My 1st DUI was in 2004. I got the ARD program. My 2nd DUI was in 2012. I had house arrest, probation and 12-month license suspension. My 3rd DUI was in December 2017. Will this count as a 3rd offense, or the 2nd again since the 1st was over 10 years ago? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: For sentencing purposes, this is a second DUI. You have spread them out but not enough to clear the requisite 10 years on each to get an ARD card. As noted, the DA will inform the judge at sentencing that it is your third overall DUI. The DA will consider the fact that this is your third and as such may recommend the higher end of the sentencing guidelines. All is not lost. You may be eligible for DUI hotel or house arrest.
Q: I got a first-time offense DUI and was accepted into the ARD program. I haven’t paid off my fines and I still need to take one class. I have one month to my court date. If I pay off the rest of my fines and complete the class before I go to court can I possibly not get my ARD revoked? Should I contact my PO tomorrow to see if they have any advice, or is it too late to call them? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Yes, in Allegheny County, all is not lost, especially if you have a month to get it together. You need to be proactive and get everything done. Call your PO immediately and give him your spin on your recent financial difficulties. If you pay and complete your class before the hearing, and the PO still wants to go through with the hearing, you should probably take a lawyer to court. You don’t want to have your ARD revoked because it is a one-time deal and will prevent you from having a record.