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Pennsylvania has a very good first-time offender program known as ARD. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. This programs usually consists of what I like to call “informal probation”. I call it informal because you don’t actually meet with a probation officer. You simply check in online or by phone once a month. The length of probation is typically between 6 months and 2 years. The program also requires some community service, payment of court costs and counseling or treatment in some cases.
This program is available to first-time offenders who are facing non-violent misdemeanors. However, some felony theft offenses can qualify as well. Common examples of the types of cases that qualify for ARD are DUI (Driving Under the Influence), theft, retail theft, criminal mischief, and identity theft. An application must be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office must approve the application in order to be admitted. A Judge cannot force the District Attorney’s Office into accepting someone for the ARD program as the District Attorney’s Office has full discretion and the final decision is in their hands.
This one is easy. Assuming a person successfully completes all of the ARD requirements he/she has earned a dismissal of the charges and they have the right to have their record expunged. This means everything gets erased as if it never happened in the first place.
Every County’s ARD costs and fees are different. The lowest that I am aware of is approximately $900.00 and the highest is close to $2,500.00. Please do not let these costs scare you away from the program. First, the Court will sometimes reduce these costs or allow monthly payments. Second, the ultimate benefit of having your record expunged is worth it.
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