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Pennsylvania's diversion program basics for underage drinking

There are many colleges in the Philadelphia area. One activity that college students tend to indulge in is underage drinking. Most of them know that it is illegal, but many may think it is a harmless crime and the consequences are not a big deal. However, a conviction for underage drinking can have long-term consequences that a college student may not think about. For instance, a conviction will result in a criminal record and must be disclosed on future school and job applications.

However, for first time offenders there may be a way to avoid a conviction. Pennsylvania offers a diversion program known as an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. The purpose of the program is to rehabilitate first offenders and offer them a fresh start instead of just punishing them.

The program is initiated by an attorney for the Commonwealth through a motion to the court. However, the defendant or their attorney can make a request to initiate the proceedings. The judge then decides whether to admit the defendant or not based on the information given at a hearing.

The program may allow a defendant to avoid a conviction. The defendant, if accepted into the program, will have certain conditions that must be met. They may also have to pay an administrative fee. If they complete all of the conditions, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed and their record expunged by the judge at the same time, ultimately keeping the defendant's criminal record clean.

However, if the defendant violates the conditions of the program, the attorney for the Commonwealth can file a motion with the court to terminate the program. There will be a hearing on the motion where the judge will decide whether to terminate the program. If it is terminated, the defendant will have to face the charges as if they were never in the program.

Many college students are charged with underage drinking in Philadelphia each year. It can be very beneficial to avoid a conviction. Attorneys understand the diversion program and can assist in the process.

Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Chapter 3. Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)," accessed on October 6, 2014

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