October 8th, 2022

Do ARD DUIs Count as a First Offense?

On Monday, October 3, 2022, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, sitting en banc, issued a decision in Commonwealth v. Moroz (and several accompanying cases). This ruling struck down an earlier holding in Commonwealth vs. Chichkin related to whether ARD admissions constitute first offenses within the context of the DUI statute.

Commonwealth v. Chichkin

In Chichkin, the Superior Court ruled that the Commonwealth could not count an individual’s prior DUI ARD admission as a first offense within the statutory framework. Under Pennsylvania’s DUI statute, penalties are enhanced for each DUI offense within a ten year period. Pre-Chichkin, ARD DUIs counted as a first offense. Thereafter, if an individual was charged with a second DUI offense, he or she would face the enhanced penalties related to a second offense DUI. Post-Chichkin, the Commonwealth could no longer support the enhanced penalties because the ARD admission was not considered a conviction under the sentencing statute. Therefore, individuals who entered the ARD program before Chichkin but received another DUI offense within ten years would only face first offense penalties. In response to Chichkin, many local district attorneys began conditioning ARD admission on a defendant’s stipulation that ARD would count as a first offense, if the defendant received another charge over the next ten years.

Commonwealth v. Moroz

The recent decision in Moroz reverses course from Chichkin. So, individuals who successfully completed ARD within the last ten years are considered to have a first offense going forward, whether or not they signed a stipulation after Chichkin was decided.

Likely Appeals

The Moroz decision may not stand for long. The case is ripe for further appeal. Additionally, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has granted allocatur in an earlier case, Commonwealth v. Verbeck, addressing whether the acceptance of ARD for a DUI should count as a first offense. There is no timeframe for a decision on this case.

Stay Tuned

Major shifts in case law and statute are common in this realm. DUIs are among the most commonly charged criminal offenses and novel issues arise frequently. Stay tuned for a Supreme Court ruling resolving this issue or for the state legislature to act. Individual counties will continue to address this issue differently in the interim.

If you are facing DUI charges, contact our team of experienced attorneys. We can help you navigate this complicated area and advocate for the best resolution.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.