If you have been charged with a misdemeanor drug offense and it is your first criminal offense, you may be eligible for Probation Without Verdict (PWV) in Pennsylvania. To receive a PWV offer, it is critically important for you to retain an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney to assist you with plea negotiations on your drug case. 

What is Probation Without Verdict? 

Probation Without Verdict, otherwise known as PWV or PWOV for short, is a Pennsylvania law allowing qualified first-time misdemeanor drug offenders to avoid a criminal conviction. It is found under Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Controlled Substances Act

Who is Eligible for Probation Without Verdict?

A person is generally eligible for Probation Without Verdict if a person pleads guilty or no contest to a nonviolent misdemeanor drug offense and proves he or she is drug dependent through the testimony of a physician or psychologist trained in the field of drug abuse. With regards to expert testimony, many courts have relaxed this requirement, allowing eligible participants to accept PWV without requiring the testimony of a doctor. You should speak with your criminal defense attorney about whether or not medical testimony will be required in the county where you face your drug charges.

Who is NOT eligible for Probation Without Verdict? 

Subsection (1) sets forth a list of persons who are ineligible for PWV, as follows: 

  • Anyone who has a prior conviction (guilty plea or verdict or no contest plea) of a drug offense under Pennsylvania law, another state’s law, or federal law;

  • Anyone who has a prior conviction (guilty plea or verdict or no contest plea) of a misdemeanor or felony in Pennsylvania or another state or jurisdiction;

  • Anyone who was placed on Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) in connection with a drug offense or any misdemeanor or felony in Pennsylvania;

  • Anyone who is charged with or has plead guilty or no contest to multiple offenses based upon separate conduct or from separate criminal episodes that the offenses could be tried separately;

  • Anyone who is a dangerous juvenile offender under 42 Pa.C.S. Section 6302 or was adjudicated delinquent of a Possession With Intent to Deliver or Possession of Steroids offense.

How does PWV work? 

With PWV, you will be required to enter a “guilty plea” to your drug charges. At your plea hearing, assuming your plea is accepted, the judge will sentence you to a period of probation, noting on the record that it shall be Probation Without Verdict. You will be required to successfully complete your probation, avoid any new criminal charges, and pay off all fines and court costs. 

If you fail to complete your probation, the judge may either extend your probation or enter a judgment of guilt against you. If you successfully complete your probation, your charges will be dismissed without an adjudication of guilt and your case disposition does not count as a conviction. You would then be eligible to pursue an expungement of your criminal charges, or the charges may be automatically expunged if there is an automatic expungement process in the county. 

Should I take PWV or ARD for my drug charges? What are the differences?  

With a first offense drug case, you may receive an offer for PWV or ARD, where the successful completion of probation under either option will allow you to avoid a conviction. Both options are preferable to having a criminal record. However, if possible, it is typically a better choice to pursue PWV for a first drug arrest rather than ARD for this reason: You cannot receive PWV if you received ARD on a prior case, but can receive ARD if you received PWV on a prior case.

For example, our firm represented a client who had a misdemeanor marijuana possession in one county, where he successfully completed PWV. Two years later, he was charged with his first DUI in another county. Since he had no prior conviction and had not received ARD in the past, he was ARD eligible for the DUI case. He was able to avoid a record along with 18 months of license suspensions on two separate cases because the PWV and expungement on Case 1 was completed before ARD on Case 2. However, had he received ARD instead of PWV on Case 1, he would have been prohibited from receiving ARD on Case 2, subjecting him to a record and a 12 month license suspension. 

Aside from eligibility, the other main difference between the programs is the end result of a probation violation.  If you violate your ARD probation, you will be revoked from the program and can still proceed to trial if necessary. If you violate your PWV probation, the court can enter a judgment of guilt against you, as you do not get to keep open the option of trial. The decision on which program to accept should be made carefully with your criminal defense attorney. 

What are the benefits of PWV? 

There are several benefits to accepting a PWV resolution for your first drug charges, which may include the following: 

  • The case will conclude with no criminal conviction upon your successful completion of probation;

  • You will not serve any jail time in connection with your original sentence;

  • You will avoid the mandatory 6-month license suspension that may apply to a conviction for the Possession of a Controlled Substance, Prohibited Acts, or Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana offenses;

  • You may qualify for an automatic record expungement, saving you the time and expense of hiring a lawyer to file the expungement for you;

  • You avoid the time, expense, and uncertainty of trial.

What are the downsides of PWV? 

The main negatives associated with PWV include making an admission of guilt in open court and the automatic conviction that can result if you violate your probation. 

How can the Zuckerman Law Firm help with my drug charges? 

If you are facing a felony or misdemeanor drug offense in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm at 412-447-5580 for a free consultation. Our firm has successfully negotiated Probation Without Verdict on behalf of drug offenders in a variety of situations, including: 

  • Withdrawal of Felony Possession With Intent to Deliver charges in return for a 2 year period of Probation Without Verdict on misdemeanor drug possession charges;

  • Probation Without Verdict for drug offenders charged with the misdemeanor possession of Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamines, Unauthorized Prescription Drugs and Marijuana;

  • Charge reductions to summary disorderly conduct when Probation Without Verdict was the original plea offer.