ARD, AMP, Treatment Court and Other Pre-Trial Diversionary Programs That Can Help You Keep a Clean Record
I Have Never Been Arrested Before. Can I Keep This Case Off Of My Record?
Our Philadelphia criminal lawyers often represent clients who are charged with less serious offenses who are extremely concerned about maintaining a clean criminal record. For example, we represent defendants who are facing charges for crimes like Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"), misdemeanors such as drug possession, and less serious felonies who may not necessarily be facing jail time but who would face serious collateral consequences from a criminal conviction. Because the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can be so far-reaching, it is extremely important that if you are facing criminal charges, you retain a lawyer who can help you keep a clean record for work, licensing, immigration, or educational purposes. In many cases, if you have never been arrested before or have not been arrested for a long time, our criminal defense attorneys can help you in applying to pre-trial diversionary programs which will allow you to avoid a conviction and even have the record of the arrest expunged and destroyed.
We are most successful in obtaining entry into a pre-trial diversionary program like ARD for clients who have never been arrested before. In some cases, we have even been able to obtain entry into a diversionary program for clients with prior arrests or who have gone through ARD before. If you are facing misdemeanor or less serious felony charges, there are a number of programs to which we can help you apply. Two of the most common pre-trial diversionary programs which can be used to avoid a conviction are ARD and AMP, and we are frequently successful in obtaining ARD or AMP for our clients and in keeping convictions off their records.
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What Is ARD? (The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program)
ARD is probably the most common diversionary program in Pennsylvania state court because it exists in each county in Pennsylvania. ARD is a pre-trial diversionary program which allows a defendant with no prior criminal record (or an extremely old, minor arrest or juvenile matter) to pay a fine, complete community service, serve a relatively short period of unsupervised probation, and then have all of the charges from the case dismissed and expunged. In DUI cases, the ARD program may include a short driver’s license suspension. Depending on the level of the DUI, the license suspension will be for a month or two instead of the one-year year license suspension which is commonly seen even for a first DUI conviction.
ARD is typically offered only in misdemeanor cases. However, we have been able to obtain ARD for felony defendants with particularly strong mitigation in their background. For example, we are often able to put together compelling mitigation packets in our ARD applications to the District Attorney which may include proof of employment, character letters, and other evidence that the defendant is unlikely to have any future contacts with the criminal justice system. On rare occasions, our criminal lawyers have even obtained ARD for second DUI offenses.
ARD can be expensive, but when offered, it does provide a guarantee that if the defendant completes the conditions, then the case and criminal record will be dismissed and the charges will be expunged. ARD is almost never offered for violent crimes, but it is commonly offered for low-level theft offenses and Driving Under the Influence. Because ARD results in dismissal of the charges and expungement, we typically recommend that clients who are eligible for ARD accept the program. However, each case is different, and in some cases, we have advised clients to fight the charges instead.
The Accelerated Misdemeanor Program ("AMP")
A second common pre-trial diversionary program which exists only in Philadelphia is the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program ("AMP"). Like ARD, the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program also typically allows the defendant to avoid any period of probation or jail time, and in many cases, it allows for the dismissal and expungement of charges without a conviction. Depending on the defendant's criminal record, there are two levels of AMP to which the defendant may be admitted - AMP I and AMP II.
AMP I requires the defendant to pay a fine, complete community service, and remain arrest-free for approximately two months. If the defendant is able to complete those conditions, then the charges will be dismissed and the defendant may file for an expungement. The expungement is not automatic and requires an additional filing fee and hearing, but once the expungement is granted, the records will be destroyed and the case will be removed from the defendant's record. The court costs and period to complete the program for AMP I are typically lower than the court costs for ARD.
AMP II, which may be offered to defendants with lengthier criminal records, may result in a conviction or participation in a program called Section 17. In many cases, we are able to obtain Section 17 or Section 18 dispositions for defendants who have prior arrests or convictions but are admitted into AMP II. The conditions of Section 17 and Section 18 vary depending on the case, but in general, both require the defendant to plead no contest, complete a period of probation, pay a fine, and possibly complete various other conditions such as job training or drug treatment. If the defendant is successful, then the charges can be dismissed and expunged. If the defendant is not successful, then the judge may find the defendant guilty of the charges and sentence the defendant to either probation or jail time. In cases where the defendant already has a lengthy criminal record, we may be able to obtain an AMP II offer which requires a guilty plea and conviction but will not result in an actual probationary or jail sentence if the defendant is able to complete the conditions. We have also obtained Section 17 and Section 18 for clients outside of the AMP program and in counties other than Philadelphia.
Other Diversionary Programs
In addition to ARD and AMP, there are other diversionary programs both in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Many of the counties have specialized DUI treatment courts, drug treatment courts, Domestic Violence Court, Intermediate Punishment, Veteran's Courts, and Mental Health courts. The programs vary from county to county and depending on the case.
Fighting The Case
Finally, when the client is not eligible for ARD or other pre-trial diversionary programs, we have been extremely successful in defending misdemeanor charges both at trial in the Philadelphia Municipal Court or through pre-trial motions such as Motions to Suppress or Speedy Trial motions. If we are able to beat the case at trial or through the use of a pre-trial motion, we are typically able to move for an expungement once the case has been dismissed or we have obtained an acquittal. Additionally, summary convictions can often be expunged after five years, and some misdemeanor convictions can be partially expunged pursuant to a new limited access order law after ten years.
If you are facing charges for the first time or have been arrested before, you need the advice and representation of one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys immediately. We have helped countless clients avoid conviction and permanent records both at trial, through the use of pre-trial motions, and through applications to pre-trial diversionary programs. Call 267-225-2545 for a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session with one of our Philadelphia criminal lawyers.
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