April 2011 Archives

April 27, 2011

First Offense DUI in Chester County, Pennsylvania? When You Complete ARD You May Have Summary Offense(s) on Your Record

The Pennsylvania ARD program is a good thing for first time offenders. It is especially good for first time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania. It gives citizens who had their first encounter with the criminal justice system a second chance. If you complete the ARD program you will have the charges against you dismissed. You may hire an attorney to expunge your ARD record at the end of the case. Although expungement will cost you more in legal fees, the good news is at the end of the day your criminal record will be clean. If you are a first time offender of any criminal offense, the most important thing for you to do is to protect your record. A criminal record can have devastating consequences on your life. It will have a negative affect on many employment opportunities, especially in this economic climate. Also, if you have kids in the Pennsylvania public school system, having a criminal background will affect what degree of participation you will have with your child's extracurricular activities at school. Pennsylvania is very strict with background checks on parents. Any criminal record may disqualify you as a parent from participating in your child's school activities. If you are a first time DUI offender, complete the ARD program, and have your charges expunged, you will not have a criminal record and your life will not be affected. However, the policy of the Chester County District Attorney's Office is that if you are charged with summary offense(s) and accepted into the ARD program, you may be forced to plead guilty to non-vehicle code or vehicle code summary offenses at your ARD hearing. This policy is contrary to most counties. In most counties, once you are in the ARD program all of the charges, including summaries, will be dismissed once you complete the ARD program.

Continue reading "First Offense DUI in Chester County, Pennsylvania? When You Complete ARD You May Have Summary Offense(s) on Your Record" »

April 21, 2011

To Expunge or Not to Expunge?: The Failure of Pennsylvania Courts to Expunge Your DUI ARD Arrest Record

Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 320 is entitled Expungement Upon Successful Completion of ARD Program. This rule is applicable when you successfully complete the ARD program whether it be for a DUI or other charge(s). Rule 320 states "when the judge orders the dismissal of the charges against the defendant, the judge shall also order the expungement of the defendant's arrest record...." This means that your criminal record should be automatically expunged when you complete the ARD program. You shouldn't be forced to pay an attorney to file an expungement petition on your behalf, you shouldn't be forced to pay court costs for filing fees and certified copies, and you shouldn't be forced to wait months before your record is clean. The reality is that you will be forced to do all of the above. Most counties do not follow Rule 320. Your ARD record will NOT be expunged when you successfully complete the ARD program in the counties that I practice law. You will still have a criminal record when you are done the ARD program. When an employer or other government agency performs a background check, the background check will list your charges with the notation "ARD" next to them. Even though ARD is technically not a criminal conviction, this may still have negative consequences for you and your job search. If you want a clean record you will need to hire an attorney to file an expungement petition. You will have to wait months for the process to be completed. The judge must sign off on your petition and order your record expunged. To complicate matters further, the expungement rules have recently changed. You must attach a Pennsylvania state background check to your expungement petition. You must order this background check from the Pennsylvania State Police. This will take an additional 4 weeks.

Continue reading "To Expunge or Not to Expunge?: The Failure of Pennsylvania Courts to Expunge Your DUI ARD Arrest Record " »

April 8, 2011

BAC Under .08% in Pennsylvania? I Won't Be Prosecuted for a DUI, Right? Think Again. (Part II of II)

Continued from March 31, 2011 blog....

Now let's move on to Chester County. It's a different ballgame in Chester County altogether. Delaware County is a "blue collar like place" and I liken Chester County to a country club. Chester County is the richest county in Pennsylvania and has less of a caseload than Delaware County. It is my opinion that Chester County is tougher on DUI cases than Delaware County in some respects.

In this particular case, I arrived at the preliminary hearing in West Chester District Court with the hope that the case would be dismissed. The lab report stated my client's BAC was .072%. A young DA intern was prosecuting the case: probably in his last year of law school at Widener. (in Chester County and Delaware County third year law students do the preliminary hearings) I advised the young intern that he should dismiss the case. Not only was my client under the legal limit, he was also a squeeky clean guy. He attended a prestigious Pennsylvania university and graduated cum laude with a 3.9 G.P.A. in Astrophysics. After explaining this to the intern, my request was met with a resounding "no." Although, intern looked like a young Tom Cruise from Risky Business, I could tell he wasn't dancing in his socks to Bob Seger. This kid was abrasive and wouldn't budge. I could tell he was trained by the DA's office to be skeptical of any defense attorney. At that point I knew I had to go over his head. I called a supervisor that I used to work with in the DA's office. I explained to him the circumstances, and told him that my client was an exceptional kid with a bright future and that he was under the legal limit. The supervisor explained to me that in Chester County, their policy is that they don't drop any DUI's and advised that I should waive the preliminary hearing and apply my client for ARD program. At this point most attorneys would have waived the hearing and applied for the ARD program. I advised my client to have a hearing, cross examine the police officer and then take the case to trial in the Court of Common Pleas. I don't believe that a person should have to go through the ARD program when they are under the legal limit. I don't think it's right or in the best interests of justice. I could see the DA's office not cutting a defendant a break if there was an accident and someone was injured, or the defendant was driving on a suspended license or the defendant had prior DUI convictions. Those circumstances might warrant the DA's office going through with the prosecution; but if it is a "run-of-the-mill" first offense DUI with an upstanding defendant, I don't believe they should pursue the prosecution and force the defendant to go into the ARD program. The DA's office thinks that the ARD program is a privilege and citizens should feel lucky that they are offered the opportunity.

Continue reading "BAC Under .08% in Pennsylvania? I Won't Be Prosecuted for a DUI, Right? Think Again. (Part II of II)" »

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