The Chief of Montgomery County’s ARD Division, Assistant District Attorney Karen Ricca, says the program is strictly for first-time offenders. “A defendant cannot have any type of record for felony or misdemeanor convictions. It’s a non-violent first-time mistake.”
She says ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, and it’s a pre-trial program.
“We remove these cases from the court docket to free the court up to try the more serious felony cases and violent crimes, so that’s the accelerated part. Rehabilitative, I used this term to a Public Defender’s client the other day when they were complaining about the amount of Community Service that they had to do in order to receive an ARD disposition and I said, ‘This is like detention.’”
Ricca says people who get ARD have to do a couple of Saturdays of Community Service, and that’s the rehabilitation part. The disposition is that people get probation instead of jail time for their offenses, typically DUI or thefts of items valued at less than $5,000. Non-violent first-time offenders pay fines and costs, do community service and spend a year on probation. After that, she says, they can walk away with a clean record and answer questions truthfully on an application for a job or college.
“If the question is, ‘Have you ever been convicted?’ and you have received an ARD disposition, the answer to the question honestly is ‘no’ because ARD is not a conviction. ARD is a pre-trial disposition. You’re not admitting guilt. Then again you’re not maintaining your innocence. What you’re saying as a defendant is that I’ve reviewed the evidence the government has against me and they’ve offered me a first-time offender’s probation. I will take that.”
If the question is “Have you ever been arrested?” Ricca says the answer is “yes,” and it should be followed with an explanation that you got an ARD disposition. She appeared Wednesday on the WNPV talk program Legally Speaking.