No parent wants to get that call informing them that their child is facing criminal charges. Parents can be angry, humiliated and terrified about what happens next. All these emotions are understandable. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that a juvenile mistake does not have to have lifelong consequences.

As such, no matter how upset you may be with your child, getting him or her help in lieu of punishment can be an option worth exploring. One possibility is Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

What is ARD?

Alternatives to criminal punishment, including diversionary programs like ARD, allow criminal offenders to seek help and rehabilitation instead of detention and incarceration.

These approaches aim to treat underlying factors that may have contributed to a person’s misconduct. The goal is to give a person the guidance and tools he or she needs to never make the same mistake again.

Regarding the ARD program in Pennsylvania, for instance, participants may undergo alcohol and drug assessments, complete educational programs or perform community service. The exact requirements will depend on the charges a person is facing.

Another critical benefit is that it can shield a person from getting lost in the system due to a criminal record and time spent in jail or prison. Without diversionary programs, a person could struggle to get back on his or her feet after even a short time behind bars.

Does my child qualify for ARD?

In Pennsylvania, first-time offenders may qualify for this diversionary program. If your child does not have a criminal record and is not charged with a traffic or summary harassment charge, he or she may qualify.

You must also be able to fulfill the financial requirements. These include application, program and supervision fees.

Upon successful completion of ARD, your child’s charges can be dismissed. The courts may also expunge his or her arrest record. If your child fails to complete the program, the case goes back to court.

Pursuing ARD

If ARD sounds like something you think your child can qualify for and benefit from, you can talk to your attorney about it. There are situations in which ARD may not be feasible, but in such cases, your attorney can discuss with you other strategies to protect your child against aggressive criminal charges.