Simply put, an offender program is a program usually requiring a plea of guilty. In return, the Commonwealth agrees to a more favorable sentence in the hopes of assisting your rehabilitation in various types of ways. This is not the case with all of these specialty courts. For instance, ARD does not require a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt. Sex Offender Court is a court where you can have a jury trial. If you are found guilty, you may be sentenced to probation or jail time and then take part in the rehabilitative aspects of SOC. There are a number of offender courts.
- PRIDE Court (Allegheny County)
- DUI Court
- Mental Health Court
- Veteran’s Court
- Drug Court (Allegheny County)
- Sex Offender Court (Allegheny County)
- Phoenix Court (PHX) (Allegheny County)
- Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
PRIDE Court is for prostitution cases were the defendant was alleged to be engaged in the act of prostitution. Pride Court seeks to give defendants empowerment, personal worth, and pride in themselves so as to find other means of employment.
DUI Court, in Allegheny County, is for third time Driving Under the Influence charges. A major benefit to DUI Court is the program’s therapeutic approach to drinking and driving. Another major benefit to DUI Court is the program’s two-year intensive program, at least one of which is spent on house arrest, and thus enables the Defendant to avoid a potential sentence of incarceration. DUI Court in Butler County is for all DUI offenses.
Mental Health Court is for defendants who commit crimes fueled by untreated mental health issues. Mental health court provides mental health treatment services to Defendants for the duration of their participation in the program.
Veteran’s Court is for those who come in contact with the criminal justice as a result of the drug addiction and/or mental health issue and are veterans of the armed forces. This program takes into consideration that these individuals may be uniquely situated as criminal defendants due to their time on active duty.
Drug Court is a program for defendants with substance abuse problems that lead them to pick up particular types of crime. This program is meant to combine mandatory drug testing, intensive court supervision, and various treatment milestone incentives to work towards a defendant’s rehabilitation.
Sex Offender Court provides defendants and victims alike with the ability for prompt resolution, substantive treatment, and input from a number of groups in hopes of preventing the defendant from committing further sex crimes.
Phoenix Court is a program where the Commonwealth makes a very good plea offer in an attempt to minimize the time and cost of litigating a defendant’s particular case. This court is a great destination for non-violent crimes, low grade theft, and certain non-ARD eligible first or second DUI cases.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition is more commonly known by its acronym “ARD.” Unlike all of the other programs, ARD is an implicit plea of guilty. Additionally, when a defendant completes the ARD program they receive an automatic expungement.
NOTE: The above treatment programs as described relate primarily to Allegheny County. Your county probably has at least some of these programs. These programs are all beneficial programs for two big reasons. First, these programs provide serious treatment to those who need it. Second, these programs focus on rehabilitation over incarceration and often drastically reduce the period of incarceration a particular defendant may be facing.