This past week I represented a Kutztown University student at an ARD Hearing in Berks County Court. An ARD Hearing is a fairly simple hearing at which the Judge places a defendant on the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, which is run by the Berks County Adult Probation Department. If the program is successfuly completed, the case against the defendant gets dismissed and any record of the case gets expunged.

Although the ARD Hearing itself didn’t take much time, the prior procedural history of the case is particularly noteworthy and complex. Back in September of 2009, our client got into a verbal altercation with another individual on the streets of Kutztown. After some arguing back and forth, our client punched the other individual one (1) time in the face. With that one (1) punch, our client knocked the other individual to the ground, causing some serious injuries that required medical treatment and surgery. Importantly, our client did not continue to fight with the other individual. It was one (1) punch, nothing more and nothing less.

Our client, who had never been in any trouble whatsoever prior to this incident, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 2702(a)(1), a felony of the first degree, and simple assault under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 2701(a)(1). Based on these serious charges, our client was facing a standard range sentence of somewhere around 4-8 years in state prison.

Attorney Liz Ebner handled the preliminary hearing and the negotiations prior to the ARD Hearing. Based in part on Attorney Ebner’s research of Pennsylvania state caselaw, Attorney Ebner was able to convince the District Attorney’s Office to withdraw the charge of aggravated assault. Even though the threat of a state prison sentence had been removed for our client, he was still in the unfortunate position of potentially having a misdemeanor conviction on his record for the rest of his life. A simple assault conviction would have serious consequences for our client, who was a criminal justice major and was looking to pursue a career in the public sector.

Therefore, Attorney Ebner next sought to get our client approved for the ARD Program. Although it can be difficult to get defendants placed on the ARD Program for violent offenses, let alone violent offenses where a felony was originally charged, Attorney Ebner wanted to exhaust every last option for our client. Attorney Ebner wrote out a detailed letter to the Berks County District Attorney explaining the situation of our client. After numerous back and forth negotiations, Attorney Ebner was able to secure the ARD Program for our client under the following circumstances: (1) our client must pay full restitution to the victim in the case, who did not have health insurance, and (2) our client must be under strict supervision on the ARD Program for a period of 24 months. Any violation of ARD Program rules, and our client will be immediately kicked off of the ARD Program.

Our client was originally facing a felony of the first degree with a 4-8 year state prison sentence. By the end of the case, our client will serve 24 months on the ARD Program, with the possibility of earning a full expungement of his charges and arrest record. After two (2) years, there will be no record of this unfortunate event, and our client will be able to pursue the career of his choice without being labeled a “criminal”.

He was, of course, extremely happy with the outcome of his case.