Should I take 30-day ARD for simple possession of marijuana?

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.

What can I do about this charge? What are my options?

Q: This is my first time being charged with a crime. I was in my car with my friend at a park. There was less than a gram of marijuana in the car and a roach (end of blunt smoked containing some marijuana). A cop car quickly pulled up behind us and a cop got out fast and knocked on my window. My friend had put the small bag of marijuana in his sock and the blunt was left in the center console. We both said the marijuana and blunt was ours to the officer. We were both charged with “Possession of Marijuana” and “Use/Possession of Drug Paraph” labeled as “Misdemeanor”. Please help me with this charge. (Mars, PA)

A: An attorney may be able to get you out of this with no criminal record, especially if you have none. If you try it on your own, and represent yourself, A) the DA and police may persuade you to waive your case to court and hope the District Attorney at the trial level offers you Probation Without Verdict, or, B) they may force you into pleading guilty to a summary Disorderly Conduct at the preliminary hearing. The summary will stay on your record for five years before you can pay to expunge it. Call an attorney.

What happens if I violate before it started?

Q: I was pulled over and received a simple possession charge a week before my introduction to the ARD program for a previous DUI charge. What’s the best course of action from here? (Peters Twp., PA)

A: You need to get the simple possession charge withdrawn or reduced to a summary offense at the District Justice level. If that is not possible you should try for a Probation Without Verdict (PWV) disposition at the trial level. It is still possible that the DA will revoke your ARD. I would talk to your lawyer immediately so he or she can check what the current DA policy is on this. The last time I had a client in this situation, the rule was that you could have a prior PWV and get ARD, but you could not have a prior ARD and get PWV.

New possession of marijuana charge while on ARD for a new DUI

Q: What happens if I am in ARD in Green County and have been charged with small possession of marijuana while still in the program? I was charged with a DUI and small possession in May 2015. I started the ARD program in November 2015 and was charged last night with another small possession. I was wondering what will most likely happen next? Should I hire an attorney? Jail time because it is a subsequent offense? What are the chances that I can get the case dropped?

A: In Allegheny County, this new misdemeanor arrest could get you kicked out of ARD. You need to hire a lawyer and see if he can turn the Possession charge into a summary charge at the District Justice level. Taking this measure could keep you in ARD, but no guarantee. My experience in Allegheny County is that you can receive ARD on a DUI even if you have a prior Probation Without Verdict (PWV) on a drug charge, but not the other way around. Another problem is that since you had a prior possession of drugs with your DUI ARD, you cannot get another diversionary program like PWV after your ARD if your new charge is held for court. You need to have this new possession charge pleaded down to a summary.


Can I get ARD in PA, if I had ARD in NJ?

Q: I was charged with possession of a small amount of weed in my car. My friends and I decided to get out the car to go to a gas station and someone had called the police because my friend was intoxicated. We were not in the car but a light was on in the car and police officer told me to shut it off I opened the door and police officer smelled the weed in the car. I told them it was mine even though it wasn’t to get the people I was with off the hook. I have a previous DUI in NJ where I go to college but none in PA. I took some DUI classes in NJ and paid the fines. Now I have a possession of marijuana charge in PA. It is my first and I want to get ARD program for it? Also, since we were not driving nor in the car, can my license be taken away? I am a college student and I work so I need to get back and forth. What should I do?

A: You really need to review this with a Criminal Defense Attorney in your area. You may have enough of an illegal search defense to push the police into turning this into something that does not result in a criminal conviction if just outright asking them to cut you a break doesn’t work. You may not be able to get ARD as you have had it once in NJ and you cannot get ARD for a drug case in PA. If you cannot get it withdrawn at the Preliminary Hearing, or turned into a summary offense like Disorderly Conduct, your next option would be to receive Probation Without Verdict (PWV) at the trial level which will not result in a conviction. However, be aware that some county DA’s will not offer PWV if you have had a prior ARD for DUI. Your goal is to get out of this without a record which is more difficult since it is your second time at the plate. If you are offered to plead to a Disorderly Conduct summary offense at the Preliminary Hearing. However, a summary conviction will stay on your record 5 years before you can expunge it, assuming you can stay out of trouble. Again, your chances of minimizing your damage will be better with an attorney.