What Happens When You Get Your First DUI in Pennsylvania?
How many clients do you see who have been arrested for first-time DUI?
Ellis: A lot of them are first-time offenders. 50% to 75% of my cases are first-time offenders, people who never ever in their life ran afoul of the law. Luckily, Pennsylvania has a program for first-time offenders, for the people who have not been in trouble before for DUI.
Interviewer: What is that program called?
Ellis: The acronym is ARD. It is short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. Basically, it is a pretrial program. It enables charges to be dismissed after the person pays a fine, goes to a couple of alcohol highway safety classes, and does a little bit of community service.
It gets people out of this without a conviction and mandatory jail time. Then once the charges are dropped, we can then go back and expunge the record. So it is totally off their record, and there is no rap sheet.
Interviewer: Is the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition available to all first-time DUI offenders?
Ellis: It is available to first-time DUI offenders who, basically, have never been in trouble in their lives, who did not hurt anybody as part of this incident, and who are properly licensed and insured. It is usually available to those people. It is up to the prosecutor’s office to determine who gets ARD and who does not.
Interviewer: Should a first-time offender assume he or she will automatically get into this program, or do you have to qualify?
Ellis: It certainly is not an automatic thing. It is reviewed on a case by case basis. If the person is eligible for the program, it is great. It is a learning experience, and the system hopes they never see them again.
Interviewer: What specifically happens to minors, under age 21, charged with DUI?
Ellis: There are a lot of young people getting pulled over for this. The law says if you are under 21 and your blood-alcohol is .02% or greater, then you could be charged and convicted of a DUI. ARD is still available for something like that. However, if you are found guilty, it is two days in jail.
Of course with 0.02, you are not under the influence. It is basically one drink. However, the way the law is written there should not be any alcohol in your system anyway. They are penalizing you if you have basically one drink in your system.
Hopefully, ARD is available in those situations. A lot of parents are concerned about their children having a criminal record for the rest of their life. Usually, if they get ARD, they will be able to take care of that.