L ast week was an interesting week for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program in York County.
Not that every week isn't interesting for the ARD folks, but last week more so than usual.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the ARD program, it's designed as a way to deal with non-violent first offenders without putting them in jail or ruining their reputations for life.
A judge assigns them to ARD, and as long as they do what the judge tells them to do -- normally they are required to pay costs and fines, perform community service, attend classes, undergo drug and alcohol evaluation/counseling, participate in a victim impact panel and/or complete a period of probation -- they get their records wiped clean.
It's a good program.
The only thing that would make it better, to my way of thinking, would be to require ARD offenders to accept responsibility for their actions by admitting their guilt as a condition for acceptance into the program.
But they don't have to do that.
So it does kind of look like an easy way out of trouble -- no jail time served, no record of the criminal conduct and no recognition of guilt -- that bothers some law-abiding citizens.
Still, I like it. I believe in second chances for non-violent offenses, and ARD is one.
And it should be noted that some offenders do take responsibility for their actions without being forced to do so.
That certainly is the case with Jonathan Kearney, 25, the son of York County District Attorney Tom Kearney, who recused himself and his office from prosecuting the case for obvious conflict-of-interest reasons.
Young Kearney was arresting for driving under the influence at 2 a.m. last Nov. 12, with a blood-alcohol level about double the legal limit.
And from Day 1, Kearney acknowledged his conduct and took responsibility for it.
He was cut no slack by his DA father, either.
In addition to one year of probation, Kearney will lose his driver's license for 60 days, attend DUI classes and a victim impact panel, undergo drug and alcohol evaluation and perform 35 hours of community service.
Actually the same applies to another ARD participant, Jacqueline Bortner, 48, wife of York County Common Pleas Judge Michael Bortner. She was arrested for driving under the influence at 10:05 p.m. on Nov. 28. Her blood alcohol level was 0.22 percent, almost three times the legal limit.
Again, for conflict-of-interest reasons, her case was handled by the state Attorney General's Office. And again, she got no slack because her husband is a judge.
If it seems like I'm minimizing the conduct for which these two people were charged, I'm not. DUI is serious stuff and too often deadly. They both were very fortunate they were arrested before they were involved in an accident in which someone might have been injured or killed.
But these two relatives of prominent elected officials in York County had their cases handled precisely the way they should have been. They'll get their second chance, thanks to ARD, and here's hoping they'll learn from their mistakes.
The other high-profile offender admitted to ARD last week, former York City Councilwoman Toni Smith, is equally deserving of the opportunity.
You may not agree with her politics -- and I usually don't -- but she meets all the criteria for ARD participation. I'm glad she's getting the chance to clear her record.
The 78-year-old York City resident was charged with violating the election law last year when she unlawfully donated $950 in cash (the law allows cash contributions of $100 or less) to the Committee for York's Future, a group that distributed political fliers criticizing another candidate for city council.
But she pleaded not guilty in February, which indicates to me that she hasn't accepted responsibility for her actions. That's unfortunate.
Nevertheless, Smith will be expected to pay court costs and perform 35 hours of community service as part of her ARD participation.
All things considered, it's a good deal.
For Smith, sure. And for Kearney and Bortner, and all ARD participants.
But for taxpayers, as well.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.