Avoiding Jail Time for a First Drug Offense in Pennsylvania
If you have been arrested and charged with violating one of Pennsylvania’s drug laws, you may worry that you’ll be sentenced to a period of incarceration, and that the drug charge will haunt you for years to come. Under the right circumstances, though, you can avoid any jail time and can have your charge dismissed and have the case expunged.
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program
Recognizing that many first-time offenders are not career criminals, and that a rehabilitative approach is a better option for offenders as well as the state, the Pennsylvania legislature has implemented the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, an intervention tool available to certain non-violent offenders with little or no prior criminal record. Candidates for the programs are carefully screened, usually by the prosecutor’s office, based on the severity of the crime, the perceived likelihood of rehabilitation and the offender’s willingness to participate in diversionary programs.
To qualify for ARD, you must be willing to complete a substance abuse program, and must also agree to make restitution, if appropriate. If you are selected, you will face a period of supervision similar to probation, and may be required to perform community service.
You can be placed in the ARD program for up to two years. If you comply with all the requirements set forth by the court, at the end of your participation in the program, you can petition the court to dismiss all charges and permanently expunge your case from the criminal records. However, if you are placed in the program, but do not meet its conditions, you can be sent back to court to face criminal prosecution.
Though ARD may help you avoid incarceration and keep your criminal record clean, you may still be required to pay court costs.
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