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Acceptance of ARD for a Pennsylvania DUI Charge Constitutes a First Offense for Purposes of License Suspension

If you are convicted of a second DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you may face increased penalties. While in most cases it is clear what constitutes a second DUI offense, in some circumstances clarification is required as to whether a prior disposition of a DUI charge constitutes an offense. In Shaffer v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) for a Pennsylvania DUI charge constituted an offense for purposes of license suspension. If you are charged with a DUI and have previously been convicted of a DUI or accepted ARD for a DUI charge, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss the facts of your case and determine how to defend against the charges you face.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the suspect was charged with a DUI in February 2014, after which he was accepted into an ARD program. The suspect was then arrested for a second DUI in January 2015, prior to his completion of the ARD program. Due to his second arrest, the state filed a petition to terminate the suspect’s participation in the ARD program, which was granted. The suspect then pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of recklessly endangering another person for the 2014 DUI charge, and pleaded guilty to general impairment for the 2015 DUI charge. Reportedly, the suspect was subsequently notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that his license was suspended for one year for the 2015 DUI charge, due to the fact the DMV considered his acceptance of ARD a prior offense. The suspect appealed the suspension. On appeal, the Court of Common Pleas affirmed the suspension.

The suspect then appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing his acceptance of ARD was not a prior offense due to the fact he was not convicted of the 2014 DUI, his 2015 DUI was prosecuted as a first offense, and he was not informed of the civil penalties that may occur if he was removed from ARD.

Decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the Court of Common Pleas decision, on the grounds that the suspect failed to file his appeal in a timely manner. The court held, however, that even if the suspect did not waive his right to appeal due to his untimely request he nonetheless would not have prevailed on his claim. With regards to the argument the DMV was barred from treating the 2015 DUI as a second offense when it was prosecuted as a first offense, the court noted the DMV and the state are two separate entities and the DMV was not involved in the criminal proceedings and could not be barred from imposing a suspension based on the state’s handling of the criminal proceedings. Next, the court noted it had previously held that acceptance of ARD constitutes a DUI offense under the terms of the motor vehicle code and completion of the program is not necessary for it to be considered an offense. Lastly, the court held that there is no requirement that a suspect be advised of the civil penalties of his actions in a criminal proceeding. Based on the foregoing, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

If you are charged with your second DUI you should engage a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible to ensure you do not waive any rights.  Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you formulate a defense to your DUI charge. Contact him at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Clarifies Law Regarding What Constitutes a Second DUI Offense Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, September 13, 2018

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Affirms Enhanced DUI Sentence Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, December 1, 2017

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds Defendant’s Resentencing Following New DUI Conviction Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, May 9, 2017