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DA denies favoritism in case of Scranton teacher's DUI

The Lackawanna District Attorney's office has denied giving preferential treatment to a Scranton school teacher who was allowed to enter a special program for persons convicted of drunk driving even though she was not legally eligible. The program, known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD, provides an alternative to imprisonment for persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. If a person successfully completes the program, the DUI arrest and conviction are expunged from the person's record.

The school teacher was stopped by a state trooper after he saw her car drifting from lane to lane on Interstate 81. The trooper said in his arresting affidavit that her eyes were glossy and that her speech was slurred. A subsequent blood alcohol test showed that her blood alcohol content was 0.165 percent, more than double the state's limit of 0.08 percent. The trooper also found that the teacher's two young daughters, ages 7 and 8 were in the car. The presence in the car of young children subjected the driver to a charge of endangering the welfare of children.

The driver's attorney requested that his client be admitted into the ARD program, even though Pennsylvania law bars entry into the ARD program for anyone arrested with children under age 14 in the car. The district attorney spent several months contemplating it before deciding to grant the request. The DA said that the teacher "was dealing with certain issues" and that she took "affirmative steps" to alleviate these issues. Even though the ARD statute on its face prevents the teacher from being eligible to participate, the prosecutor defended his decision to make an exception because he was "satisfied that she was sincere about trying to help herself." The driver must complete an alcohol safety program and perform 75 hours of community service to successfully complete the program.

Persons who are charged with DUI should check with their attorneys to determine if they can enter the ARD program. Successful completion can avoid some of the most severe consequences of a DUI conviction, such as losing one's job.

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, "DA says Scranton teacher not given preferential treatment to enter ARD," Terrie Morgan-Besecker, June 13, 2014

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