First Time DUI’s and Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

What is ARD?

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is a system for first time DUI offenders under Pennsylvania law. The ARD program is an alternative to the criminal trial and is intended to allow the individual to avoid a lengthy trial and allow the defendant to continue his life, without jeopardizing the public.

ARD is very similar to probation, but at the end of successful completion of the ARD program, the defendant may have the DUI expunged from his record. Generally the supervisory period is two years and the defendant may not drink alcohol for a set amount of time. Other requirements, like employment or training programs, may also be imposed.

If you complete the ARD program successfully then you will have avoided jail time, a one year suspension of your driver’s license, and a criminal conviction, as well as other potential consequences.

Who is eligible and should I accept ARD?

Only first time offenders are eligible for the ARD program. The district attorney in charge of prosecution will make the decision regarding a specific person’s eligibility, but a judge has the final say on acceptance into the program. A request to be included in the program may be made to the district attorney by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any interested agency or institution. Not every first time offender is automatically accepted into the ARD program, but you and your attorney should discuss the possibility of the ARD program.

Even if you are a first time offender you will not be eligible for ARD if:

  • There was a serious injury to anyone other than yourself in the incident
  • Any fatality occurred in the incident
  • You had a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the DUI stop

If you are not eligible for ARD, you will have to go through the criminal court system for the DUI.

Not everyone should accept the ARD program. Although it can be more expensive, sometimes a trial is a better option for defendants. The ARD program is like a get out of jail free card, it is not like a verdict of not guilty. If you are ever arrested for a second DUI, the system will treat you as a repeat offender.

For this reason, if you have a good chance of winning your DUI case on the merits, you should save your get out of jail free card. You need to discuss with your lawyer the options for the case, both ARD and trial. Remember, a not guilty verdict is far more valuable further down the road than a successful pass in the ARD program.

What happens when someone fails the ARD program?

Of course, all goes best when a defendant successfully completes the ARD program, and does not have another DUI problem. However, some do fail the ARD program. If a defendant fails to complete any part of the ARD program, the district attorney will seek to have you removed from the program. There are some due process issues involved with removal, discuss this with your lawyer if removal does seem like a possibility.

Issues often include:

  • Not attending supervision meetings
  • Failing to attend any mandated DUI school
  • Failing to pay any restitution
  • Otherwise violating any condition of the ARD program as ordered by the court

If you think you are in violation of any part of your ARD program, you should immediately call your lawyer. When a defendant is in violation of the ARD program, the defendant will have all original DUI charges reinstituted and the defendant will have to go to court. If you fail the ARD program you will be prosecuted on the original charges and if convicted you will be sentenced under the original DUI charge.

To read more black letter law about the ARD program, visit:

If you have a problem with a DUI, or another issue in Pennsylvania, which you’d like to discuss with an experienced defense attorney, contact our office for a free consultation today.