Is DUI Caused by Marijuana Covered by the ARD Program?
Pennsylvania offers an ARD Program (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) for certain DUI offenders. ARD is a wonderful opportunity, because successful participation means you don’t have to plead guilty, you won’t be convicted, and the charges against you will be dropped. But what if your DUI was based on drugs instead of alcohol? Does ARD cover intoxicated driving offenses that involve marijuana? Our Cheltenham DUI defense lawyers have the answers.
Eligibility Requirements for the ARD Program with Marijuana
Let’s start with the good news: yes, you absolutely can qualify for and participate in the ARD Program if your DUI was caused by marijuana rather than alcohol.
However, there’s also some bad news: you don’t automatically qualify simply because the DUI was your first offense. If you want to participate in the program, there are three basic eligibility requirements you need to meet:
- You need to have clean criminal record extending back for a minimum of 10 years. The exception to this general rule would be a first-time ungraded misdemeanor.
- Your DUI must not have killed or physically hurt any other motorists.
- Your DUI must not have involved a passenger younger than 14 years old.
Additionally, there is a 10-year waiting period for ARD participation. This means that if you’ve already gone through the program within the past decade, you won’t be able to enroll again until a 10-year period passes.
If you satisfy all these criteria, you may be a strong candidate for the program.
How Do I Apply for ARD in Pennsylvania?
Typically speaking, people make their ARD applications after their preliminary hearings. However, it can take several months for the application to be processed.
Not to be confused with a trial, this type of hearing doesn’t involve a ruling of guilt or innocence. Instead, the point of the preliminary hearing is simply for the judge to make a determination about whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed on.
Approval or denial of an ARD application is decided by the District Attorney. In accordance with 234 Pa. Code Rule 310, “A request for inclusion into the program may be made to the district attorney by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or an interested agency or institution.” However, even if your application is initially denied, your Berks County DUI defense lawyer may be able to change the District Attorney’s mind.
This is a good place to point out that no matter how badly you want to be accepted into the program, you should never give in to the temptation to lie on your application, because doing so could result in criminal charges.
Furthermore, you should be aware that you’ll have to pay an enrollment fee to get in. This fee is typically about $1,500, but can be higher in some cases.
Once you’re accepted into the program, it’s very important that you comply with all of its terms, which often include probation, fines, community service, and driving safety courses. You’ll have to avoid any probation violations, such as additional charges and arrests, and may periodically be drug-tested. Furthermore, even with ARD participation, you will still be subject to a 60-day license suspension period.
If you don’t comply with the program’s requirements, the District Attorney can try and have you removed from ARD. But not only will you be removed — you will also have to face your original charges.
However, if you do successfully finish the program, the D.A. will drop the charges against you. You will still have a record, but this record can be eliminated through a process called expungement, for which you must apply by filing a motion for expungement with the Court of Common Pleas. A Berks County criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate through the process.
Should You Ever Turn Down ARD?
This is a good question. While ARD is immensely appealing for many people charged with intoxicated driving, there are a few instances where it may be a better option to turn down enrollment and fight the charges instead.
For example, commercial drivers may want to think twice about accepting ARD, because ARD does not reduce the CDL license suspension. If you want to avoid having the license your job depends on being suspended, fighting the charges may be a more suitable course of action. Likewise, if you are a teacher, nurse, or doctor, enrollment in ARD has the potential to lead to an inquiry, which could result in a disciplinary action. Your Bucks County DUI attorney can help you make a decision about what will benefit you the most.
If you’ve been charged with marijuana DUI in Pennsylvania, it is very important that you contact an experienced attorney right away. For a free and private legal consultation, call the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.