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In the United States, the criminal justice system aims to bring fairness and justice to all citizens. Sometimes, the traditional punitive approach may not be the best course of action for first-time or nonviolent offenders.

In 1972, Pennsylvania introduced the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, a pre-trial intervention aimed at providing rehabilitation and a second chance for such individuals. In this article, we will explore the impact and history of the ARD program in Delaware County, PA.

A Brief History of the ARD Program

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program was first established in Pennsylvania by the state legislature in 1972. The program’s main goal was to offer an alternative to the conventional punitive approach used in criminal cases and focus on rehabilitation for first-time and nonviolent offenders.

Since its inception, several counties across Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, have adopted the program. It has seen some significant milestones, including the establishment of a dedicated ARD unit in 1974 and its expansion to include DUI cases in 1982.

ARD Program: An Overview

The ARD program is designed to divert first-time offenders from the criminal justice system, offering an alternative to conviction and the associated penalties. By participating in this program, eligible individuals can have their charges dismissed and their criminal records expunged upon successful completion. The goal is to promote rehabilitation rather than punishment, providing offenders with a valuable opportunity to regain their status as law-abiding citizens.

The District Attorney’s Office administers the program and allows those who are accepted into it to complete an agreed-upon set of conditions instead of going through a traditional criminal court process. Upon successful completion, their charges may be dismissed and their criminal record expunged.

ARD Program Eligibility Criteria

While eligibility for the program is determined on a case-by-case basis, there are certain criteria that must be met for an individual to be considered:

No Prior Criminal Record

The majority of people approved for the ARD program have a clean criminal record at the time of their arrest. However, some exceptions are made for those who have made mistakes in the past but have since shown a commitment to living within the confines of the law.

Hiring a DUI Attorney

One key requirement for the ARD application process is to enlist the representation of a qualified DUI attorney. Not only is this a mandatory condition for application, but it provides significant benefits. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can guide you through every step, ensuring a smoother process and improving your chances of acceptance.

Acceptance of Responsibility

Individuals who are successful in their ARD application typically accept responsibility for the offense they have been charged with. This is an essential part of the program, as it demonstrates an individual’s commitment to rehabilitation and willingness to make amends.

Charges Must Be Nonviolent

The ARD program does not accept applications for charges that involve violence or a weapon. This is because the program focuses on rehabilitation, not punitive measures. Violent offenders are more likely to re-offend in future, so traditional punishments must be used in these cases.

Ensuring Accurate Fingerprint Collection

In most cases, individuals have already submitted fingerprints during their arrest process. If you haven’t been booked into jail and don’t have a criminal record, your fingerprints may not be on file. Fortunately, your DUI attorney can assist in scheduling an appointment with the local police department to collect your fingerprints as needed.

Waiving Your Arraignment

Another key aspect of the ARD program is not having to enter a plea in your case. To fulfill this requirement, you must waive your arraignment. This process involves completing and submitting the proper forms to the court before your arraignment date. Failing to do so will result in disqualification from the program.

Benefits of Participating in the ARD Program

There are numerous benefits to participating in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program:

Reduced Stigma

Successful completion of the ARD program can result in the expungement of an individual’s criminal record, reducing the stigma associated with their offense.

No Conviction on Record

Upon completion of the program, offenders no longer have to worry about having a criminal conviction on their record.

Tax and Employment Benefits

Having an expunged criminal record can open up new job opportunities and tax benefits that may not be available to convicted people.


The program’s focus on rehabilitation encourages participants to address the root causes of their criminal behavior and emphasizes personal growth, reducing their chances of re-offending.

Timely Resolution

Participation in the ARD program can provide a much quicker resolution to criminal cases than the traditional process. It also lessens the burden on the court system, freeing up resources for other matters.

Avoid Jail Time

ARD participants avoid jail time and may even be eligible for probation or house arrest instead of incarceration. This provides them with a valuable opportunity to receive treatment and counseling while continuing to work or attend school as normal.

Final Thoughts

The ARD program offers an invaluable reprieve for first-time or nonviolent offenders in Delaware County, PA. Participating in this pre-trial intervention allows individuals to move on from their mistakes and get back on track without facing conviction and its associated penalties. However, it is essential to meet all the eligibility criteria and requirements outlined in the program to ensure full acceptance. With a knowledgeable DUI attorney at your side, you can maximize your chances of success in the ARD application process.