Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Browne is seeking ARD for his third set of DUI charges. These charges arose from a motorcycle accident in the Lehigh Valley earlier this year in which Browne was injured, and allegedly had a BAC between .08 and .10. ARD stands for "Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition." Those who successfully complete the ARD program can have their charges dismissed and expunged, while also receiving a shorter driver's license suspension and avoiding mandatory jail time. ARD is usually available to first time offenders who are charged with relatively low-level offenses like DUI, possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.
Only those charged with a "first offense" DUI are eligible for ARD. Although Browne does have two prior DUIs, they were in 1995 and 1999. Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, a DUI is considered a "first offense" for sentencing purposes if the most recent, prior DUI conviction or ARD placement is more than 10 year prior to the sentence for the new DUI. Thus, although this is a third DUI overall, it is considered a first offense for sentencing purposes.
The district attorney or a designated assistant district attorney decides who is approved or denied ARD. Most of the time, a defendant will be granted ARD for a first offense DUI, but it is a lot harder to get ARD for a second DUI overall, even if the second DUI happened a long time ago. Although a small percentage of fortunate defendants get DUI for a second DUI overall, I have never actually heard of anyone getting ARD for a third DUI overall, and am quite curious as to whether it has ever happened in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
If Browne is denied ARD and ultimately convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 48 hours to six months in jail, a $500 fine and a one year driver's license suspension. Normally, his low BAC would allow Browne to avoid mandatory jail time and a driver's license suspension, however the fact that there was an accident with bodily injury means that he faces the same mandatory minimum sentence normally associated with a BAC between .10 and .159.
Senator Browne has told the media that his battle with addiction is something he "lives with every day." If Browne enters some type of treatment program and is able to maintain sobriety, he may be deserving of ARD. After all, his BAC was very low by DUI standards, and the injuries he sustained, coupled with all the embarrassing media attention, are punishments in their own right, which should deter future drunk driving. That being said, the Lehigh County district attorney may worry about accusations of special treatment for a state senator. This accusation will invariably be made every time the district attorney denies ARD to a defendant with a prior DUI. Thus, Senator Browne may have an uphill battle.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, who has handled countless DUI cases over the years. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/DUI-Defense.shtml