Research guides

Pennsylvania Criminal Law

ARD & Specialty Courts

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and specialty courts focus on the rehabilitation and treatment of the offender, rather than punishment. Program eligibility and procedures may vary by county. See below for more information.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition

"The primary purpose of [Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)] is the rehabilitation of the offender; secondarily, the purpose is the prompt disposition of charges, eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming trials or other court proceedings." Pa.R.Crim.P. Committee Introduction to Chapter 3.

The rules for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition can be found at Pa.R.Crim.P. §§ 300 et seq.

ARD procedures may differ by county. See the county's court rules for more information. Additional information may be available on the county's website:

See also:

Five County Criminal Practice Pennsylvania Bar Institute
Information on ARD in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

Specialty Courts

Specialty courts, also called problem-solving courts, work to treat the underlying cause of the misconduct instead of incarceration. In Pennsylvania, select counties have established specialty courts like drug courts, mental health courts, and veteran's courts.

A full list of problem solving courts in Pennsylvania is available on the Pa Courts website.

Five County Criminal Practice Pennsylvania Bar Institute

        • Philadelphia County: Information on Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP), ARD, Domestic Violence Diversion, Drug Treatment Court, DUI Court, Intermediate Punishment, Mental Health Court, Project Dawn Court, Sexual Education and Responsibility (SER), Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM), Summary Diversion Program, The Choice is Yours (TCY), and Veteran's Court.
        • Bucks County: Information on ARD, Drug Court, and Veterans Treatment Program.
        • Chester County: Information on ARD, Drug Court, Intermediate Punishment Program, and Mental Health Court.
        • Delaware County: Information on ARD, Intermediate Punishment, Treatment Court, Veteran's Court, and Young Offenders Program.
        • Montgomery County: Information on ARD, Behavioral Health Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Veterans Treatment Court.

Law review articles can provide more information on specialty courts. HeinOnline provides access to over 1350 law reviews and bar association journals. Here are a few articles to start with:

        • Peggy Fulton Hora, Courting New Solutions Using Problem-Solving Justice: Key Components, Guiding Principles, Strategies, Responses, Models, Approaches, Blueprints and Tool Kits, 2 Chap. J. Crim. Just. 7 (2011)
        • Corey Shdaimah, Taking a Stand in a Not-So-Perfect World: What's a Critical Supporter of Problem-Solving Courts to Do?, 10 U. Md. L.J. Race, Religion, Gender & Class 89 (2010).
        • Jami Vigil, Building a Culturally Competent Problem-Solving Court, 45 Colo. Law. 51 (2016)

Research Tip

Additional information on specialty courts may be available on the county's website or through the county's District Attorney's Office.

Phila Specialty Courts & Programs

"Since 2012, the Diversion Courts Unit [of the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney] has helped thousands of individuals charged with a crime avoid convictions and collateral consequences that may result from their arrest. The Unit is tasked with identifying cases where offenders can be held accountable for their actions through participation in non-trial programming focused on preventing future criminal justice involvement."

The Diversion Unit has information about the following programs on it's website:

Misdemeanor Only

        • Accelerated Misdemeanor Program – Tier I (AMP I)
        • Accelerated Misdemeanor Program – Tier II (AMP II)
        • Domestic Violence Diversion
        • DUI Treatment Court and DUI Intermediate Punishment
        • Project Dawn Court
        • Sexual Education and Responsibility (SER)
        • Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM)
        • Mental Health Court - Competency

Felony Only

        • Future Forward
        • Mental Health Court
        • The Choice is Yours (TCY)

Misdemeanor and Felony

        • Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD)
        • Drug Treatment Court
        • Intermediate Punishment – non DUI (County and State)
        • Veteran’s Court

Summary Only

        • Summary Diversion Program

Additional information for the following programs is available on the Philadelphia Courts' website:

Research Tip

For additional information, see PBI's Five County Criminal Practice, Nuts & Bolts of Criminal Practice in Philadelphia Municipal Court, and Criminal Law Update (2018) Chapter 6: Philadelphia Municipal Court Criminal Division Initiatives.