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

April 27, 2011
By Jason Antoine on April 27, 2011 10:26 PM |

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.

The Chester County policy is very problematic for DUI defendants facing certain summary offenses such as disorderly conduct or public drunkenness. In Pennsylvania, a summary offense such as disorderly conduct or public drunkenness may show up on a criminal background check. I personally have never had a client that was forced to plead guilty to one of these summaries at a Chester County ARD hearing, but the last time I was in the West Chester Courthouse, I did witness several defendants pleading guilty to summary offenses such as disorderly conduct at their ARD hearing.

You are not eligible to have a Pennsylvania summary charge expunged until five years have passed from the date of your conviction. You also must remain arrest free for those five years to eligible for impingement.

What is the consequence of the Chester County DA's policy? The consequence is that first time, low level offenders are leaving ARD court with a criminal record. This is bad for upstanding people that made a mistake, and work hard to advance their careers and be active participants in their children's education. I can understand that DA's office forcing defendants to plead guilty to motor vehicle offenses. Although motor vehicle offenses will raise your insurance premiums, they will not appear on a Pennsylvania State Police background check or an FBI background check.

Contact Jason R. Antoine, Chester County DUI Defense Attorney if you or someone you love has been charged with DUI and other offenses. Attorney Antoine is a former Assistant District Attorney and will negotiate to have any summary offenses dropped in order to keep your criminal record free and clear when you complete the Chester County ARD program.