Pennsylvania DUI Program Participants Challenging Application of New DUI Law


Recent changes in the laws surrounding Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitated Disposition (ARD) program have DUI defendants-and their attorneys-up in arms. At stake are the freedoms and futures of hundreds of DUI defendants who thought their records of DUI arrests had been expunged.

The ARD program is a pretrial diversion option offered to first-time DUI offenders who agree to follow a court-mandated probationary program in exchange for the suspension of their charges. Acceptance into the ARD program is left to the discretion of the District Attorney in the county where the arrest took place, as are the specific terms of the program. These terms can include things like alcohol or drug rehabilitation, community service, or restitution to victims, all conducted under the supervision of the courts, often with assistance from a DUI attorney. Similar programs exist in some other states, including Kansas, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

The benefits of these pretrial diversion programs are that the defendant is not required to admit guilt, and penalties like license suspension are often mitigated. In Pennsylvania, defendants who successfully complete their ARD programs can also apply to have their records expunged of the DUI complaint. Provided these defendants are not arrested for DUI again for a specific period of time, the courts will look back and see that no previous crime exists. This means that, should a second arrest occur after this "look-back" period, the defendant will still be considered a first-time offender.

It is the look back period that is currently being debated in courts throughout the commonwealth. This is because in February of 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature lengthened this period from seven to ten years. Many argue that this change has violated the rights of defendants who were arrested for the second time more than seven years, but fewer than ten years, after completing the ARD program.

In some areas, the ARD agreements did not reference the statute; rather, defendants explicitly agreed to a seven year look back period. Some of these defendants have been sentenced as second-time offenders, exactly the thing they were guaranteed would not happen when they applied to and completed the terms of the ARD program.

Attorneys for these defendants claim that their due process rights are being violated and that applying the new law to their cases is unconstitutional. And many attorneys throughout the state have criticized the new law and the inappropriateness of applying it retroactively, essentially changing the terms of an agreement that has already been fulfilled. They also question the constitutionality of calling the subsequent arrest a "second offense" when the ARD agreement clearly states that acceptance into the program is not an admission of guilt.

Appellate courts have so far agreed, overturning one defendant's second-offense sentence on April 27, 2006. Judge H. William White said that "constitutional rights are violated because the commonwealth changed the terms surrounding the ARD agreement." It is now up to the state Superior Court to decide whether they agree with the county courts that "a defendant who accepts ARD falls into a category that is quite distinguishable from those who are convicted after a trial or a plea."

» Back to DUI Articles

PAID ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT: THIS WEB SITE IS A GROUP ADVERTISEMENT AND THE PARTICIPATING ATTORNEYS ARE INCLUDED BECAUSE THEY PAY AN ADVERTISING FEE. It is not a lawyer referral service or prepaid legal services plan. Total DUI is not a law firm.  Your request for contact will be forwarded to the local lawyer who has paid to advertise in the ZIP code you provide. Total DUI does not endorse or recommend any lawyer or law firm who participates in the network nor does it analyze a person's legal situation when determining which participating lawyers receive a person's inquiry. It does not make any representation and has not made any judgement as to the qualifications, expertise or credentials of any participating lawyer. The information contained herein is not legal advice. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers. Any information you submit to Total DUI does not create an attorney-client relationship and may not be protected by attorney-client privilege. Do not use the form to submit confidential, time-sensitive, or privileged information. All photos are of models and do not depict clients. All case evaluations are performed by participating attorneys. To see the attorney in your area who is responsible for this advertisement, please click here or call 866-200-8052.

FLORIDA ONLY: Total DUI is considered a lawyer referral service in the state of Florida under the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct. By all other standards, Total DUI is a group advertisement and not a lawyer referral service.

If you live in Mississippi, Missouri, New York or Wyoming, please click here for additional information.