District Attorney Offices throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offer Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Programs (ARD) for first time offenders. Acceptance into these programs, however, is never a guarantee and some people are rejected because of prior arrests which did not result in conviction or simply because the victim in the case won’t agree to this type of disposition. While ultimately the DA has the final say on who is accepted into ARD, there are a number of factors which may make a person ineligible for these programs.
ARD is typically offered in DUI cases but it is also sometimes offered in minor drug cases (possession) as well as some retail theft and even simple assault cases. In addition to ARD, there are also programs like the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP) which again typically requires no previous misconduct and/or convictions.
If you are rejected from any of these diversionary programs it is important that you and your attorney weigh the option of a trial vs. a guilty plea before a criminal court. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, a trial may still be a better option for you if you have strong mitigation evidence to present to a judge following a conviction. You should never simply enter a guilty plea because you were rejected from a diversion program. The burden of proof is always on the Commonwealth and your criminal defense lawyer may be able to keep out critical pieces of evidence through a pre-trial Motion to Suppress Evidence. There is also the possibility that your criminal defense lawyer can have charges dismissed for lack of evidence at a preliminary hearing. Even after the preliminary hearing, your attorney can also file a Motion to Quash which asks the court to dismiss charges that were held for trial following the preliminary hearing. These are all options before trial.
Judges understand the concepts of illegal search and seizure and self-incrimination. These are all rights that your attorney should assert through a pre-trial motion and not at trial. Remember that pre-trial motions deal with the admissibility of evidence while a trial deals with the sufficiency of the evidence.
At trial, the assigned assistant district attorney may fail to ask the proper questions of the prosecution witnesses and not establish all of the elements of your particular offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If you proceed to trial your attorney obviously can’t argue that you accepted responsibility with an admission of guilt but your attorney can demonstrate, through argument, that this case should have proceeded to trial because of the substantial amount of reasonable doubt that existed.
The bottom line is that if you are rejected from ARD or any pre-trial diversionary program, don’t throw in the towel! You have constitutional rights and if you want to find out more about them, read one of my books, watch my videos, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter