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ARD Policies Vary by County

In Pennsylvania, a first conviction for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or a controlled substance almost always means jail time, a 12 month license suspension, and a heavy fine. Many drivers charged with first offense DUI, though, are eligible for ARD, which stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. ARD can allow someone facing their first ever DUI charge to avoid a criminal conviction for DUI as well as the unpleasant consequences of that conviction. Drivers who are admitted into an ARD program face license suspensions of up to 90 days, with most drivers losing their driving privileges for 30 or 60 days. They also must take Alcohol Highway Safety Classes, submit to drug and alcohol evaluations, seek treatment for addiction (if an evaluation reveals a problem), and follow rules laid down by the county’s probation department, and the court.

The local rules vary from county to county. Cumberland County, for instance, offers Alcohol Highway Safety Classes on weeknights and weekends. ARD participants must complete a total of six 2.5 hour classes to successfully complete the program. In neighboring Perry County, participants must complete four 3 hour classes. Perry County offers the classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Classes, though, are only part of it. Juniata County requires that ARD participants complete 30 hours of community service. Dauphin County participants must attend a victim impact panel. Each county also imposes fees and costs participants must pay in order to successfully complete the ARD program. In Dauphin, participants pay at least a $1,500.00 “acceptance fee”. Perry County participants pay $300.00 plus the “costs of prosecution”. Costs can include lab fees and a variety of other charges, many unrelated to the offense of DUI.

The rules, fees, and policies I’ve just described are by no means the only ones. It’s important that anyone facing a driving under the influence charge discuss all aspects of their case, including the possibility of ARD, with a lawyer experienced in defending DUI cases.

If you are facing a DUI charge and would like to discuss your possible ARD eligibility with an experienced Pennsylvania Attorney feel free to contact me at 717-582-0400. I offer free, no obligation, initial consults.

Sean Potter
Law Office of Sean Potter, PC
15 E. Main Street | PO Box 121
New Bloomfield, PA 17068
Phone: 717-582-0400
Fax: 717-582-0401
www.attorneypotter.com

The Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearing: Witnesses Optional (well almost).

Pennsylvania’s legislature and courts target the rights of those accused of crimes with all the ferocity of a coyote chasing down a fawn. In the recent case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. David Edward Ricker (2015 PA Super 153), the Superior Court decisively ruled that the prosecution need not present any actual witness testimony at preliminary hearings. At the preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth’s task is (and has been) to make out a prima facie case that a crime occurred and that the accused is the culprit. While the Commonwealth still has to do just that, the Superior Court just made the job easier.

Prima facie does not mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt. One way of thinking about is to ask yourself whether a jury could convict the accused of the crime charged if that jury were to believe all the evidence the prosecution presented. If your answer is yes, then the prosecution has made out a prima facie case and the magisterial district judge “binds” over the charge or charges. For the Commonwealth, making out a prima facie case, in most situations, has never been a particularly difficult task. So why is the Commonwealth’s job even easier now?

Well, instead of having to present testimony by complaining witnesses and other fact witnesses, the Superior Court has ruled that the prosecutor only has to produce the witnesses’ out of court statements, which is to say “hearsay”. That means a police officer can simply tell the judge whatever the alleged victim told him or her. No need for the actual victim, or alleged victim, to testify. This also means, of course, that the accused has no right to confront his accusers at a preliminary hearing. Recent changes in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure made it all but inevitable that hearsay, alone, would eventually be enough for the prosecution to carry the day at a prelim. The Ricker case simply removed all doubt.

Prelims, though, are still important. A skillful criminal defense attorney will use every opportunity to build or bolster a defense. Even a preliminary hearing consisting only of hearsay testimony can provide a valuable opportunity for the lawyer to gauge the strength of the Commonwealth’s case, to test the evidence, to develop suppression issues, and to spot weaknesses. And, because the rules permit the criminal defendant to call witnesses on his or her behalf, it may be possible for the defense attorney to call the witnesses the Commonwealth didn’t want to call.