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Pennsylvania Court Rules Acceptance into an ARD Program Constitutes a Conviction for DUI Sentencing Purposes

Pennsylvania’s statutory sentencing scheme for DUI offenses permits the courts to impose greater penalties for each subsequent DUI conviction. Generally, it is easy to ascertain whether a conviction constitutes a first, second, or third offense. The issue can become convoluted, however, when a defendant faced with DUI charges was previously charged with a DUI crime and entered into an ARD program but was not actually convicted. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling addressing the novel question of whether prior acceptance of ARD equates to a prior conviction for purposes of imposing sentences for second or subsequent DUI crimes, ultimately ruling that it did. If you are charged with a second or higher DUI offense, you could face substantial penalties if you are found guilty, and it is critical to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about your options for protecting your liberties.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI crimes in July 2019. He was subsequently arrested and charged with a second DUI offense the following month. In February 2020, the defendant entered the ARD program for the charges arising out of his first arrest and then entered a negotiated guilty plea for the charges arising out of his second arrest.

Reportedly, the court deferred sentencing in the second case. Before the sentence was imposed, however, the court ruled that the provisions in the DUI law that equated accepted into ARD to a prior conviction for sentencing purposes were unconstitutional. The court sentenced the defendant as a first time offender, after which the Commonwealth appealed.  

Enhanced Sentencing for Second and Higher DUI Crimes

On appeal, the court determined whether a defendant’s prior acceptance into an ARD program qualified as a prior offense for the purposes of imposing an enhanced sentence in DUI cases.  The Commonwealth argued that the General Assembly had the authority to create laws and to define the terms within such laws. Further, the Commonwealth argued that the General Assembly’s intent that acceptance into an ARD program count as a prior conviction for DUI sentencing purposes was clear from the language of the statute.

The court ultimately agreed, noting that it was bound by the legislature’s determination that ARD constitutes a conviction for the purposes of determining sentences for subsequent DUI convictions. Thus, the court expressly overruled its prior ruling stating that such statutory provisions were unconstitutional, and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Pennsylvania imposes increased penalties for each subsequent DUI conviction, and it is important for anyone charged with a second or higher DUI offense to understand the potential consequences they may face if they are found guilty. If you are accused of a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek a just outcome, 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 conference.