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Pennsylvania Court Discusses ARD in the Context of DUI Sentencing

Under Pennsylvania law, the penalties increase for each DUI crime a person is found guilty of committing. If a person charged with DUI accepts ARD, though, they may be able to successfully assert that a subsequent DUI crime should be charged as a first offense. This was demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania case in which the court rejected the Commonwealth’s arguments to the contrary. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is smart to confer with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2013, the defendant was charged with a DUI offense. He was accepted into the ARD program, which he completed in 2015. Then, in 2019, the defendant was charged with DUI second offense. He entered a guilty plea, but then the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling stating that absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a prior offense, prior acceptance of ARD could not be counted as a prior offense for purposes of DUI sentencing.

Allegedly, the defendant then filed a motion to quash the charge graded as a second offense. The trial issued an order directing the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea but stated if he declined to do so, he would be sentenced as a first-time offender. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to provide it the opportunity to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the subject charge was the defendant’s second DUI offense.

ARD in the Context of DUI Sentencing

On appeal, the appellate court rejected the Commonwealth’s reasoning and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The appellate court explained that the issue that was recently resolved was whether a defendant’s acceptance of ARD constitutes a prior conviction that the court can determine at sentencing or an unproven fact that must be presented to the jury. The court ultimately found it to be a fact that must be presented to the jury or judge and proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a trial court can impose a mandatory minimum sentence for a second conviction.

Further, the court elaborated that if while the Superior Court stated that the Commonwealth must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant that accepted ADR actually committed the underlying DUI offense, the statement was mere dicta and was not meant to be precedential. Based on the foregoing, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Skilled  Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

The penalties for a DUI conviction increase with each subsequent offense, and therefore it is critical that defendants are charged properly. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a DUI crime, it is smart to speak to an attorney to evaluate your options. Zachary B. Cooper is a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who can gather the evidence needed to help you seek a favorable result, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.