Bucks County changes pre-trial ARD program

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Bucks County is taking steps to try to make a pre-trial intervention program that can wipe away some criminal charges more affordable to everyone. 

The program is called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). It lets people who are deemed low risk to re-offend wipe certain non-violent charges off their record as long as they follow through on requirements like making restitution, keeping a job, or going through a substance abuse program. Once they complete those requirements along with a period of supervision similar to probation, the offender can get the charges expunged. 

Upfront costs can vary but it’s generally several hundred dollars. Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said he didn’t think it was fair that people who couldn’t afford the program’s several hundred-dollar cost upfront, couldn’t take advantage of it.

“Somebody who otherwise qualified for ARD, if they couldn’t come up with the upfront costs, they may never have had the same opportunity,” he said.

Weintraub asked the Bucks County public defender’s office to help determine eligibility. A person can apply for a public defender. They don’t need to use the public defender, but if they qualify, they can spread out ARD payments over their time in the program rather than paying them all up front.

“ARD’s not a rich people program,” Weintraub maintained. “It’s a program for everybody, we want to be fair to everybody and that’s who we are obligated to serve.”

According to Weintraub, based on a policy change a couple years ago, they won’t send someone back to jail for failure to pay fees. But charges can’t be expunged until all payments are made and the county will take up collections as a civil matter.

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