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How Does an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal Work in New York City?

In some New York City misdemeanor cases, criminal defense attorneys are able to achieve the Holy Grail of negotiated settlements to keep their clients from pleading guilty to a crime. An Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (“ACD”) gives a criminal defendant with little or no criminal history the benefit of the court and prosecutor’s doubt regarding the charges filed against them. When an ACD happens, a judge agrees to adjourn your case for a period of time, usually 6 months (or, when marijuana charges are involved, a year). During that time frame you don’t have to do anything except keep from committing any new crimes. In a normal ACD, that means you don’t have to:

  • Pay a fine
  • Admit any guilt
  • Say anything except agree to the ACD.

If you follow the requirements of your ACD, once the 6 month or 1 year time period goes by, your case is dismissed and will be sealed by the court– which means the case will not show up on most background and criminal record checks by employers and others.

What Is an ACD?

An ACD isn’t a plea, conviction, or admission of wrongdoing. It’s also not a period where you’re placed on probation. The criminal justice system doesn’t distinguish between the dismissal following a not guilty trial verdict and the one after an ACD dismissal – the timing is main difference between the two dismissals. A not guilty verdict after a trial instantly dismisses a criminal case, but with ACDs you have to wait six months or a year for dismissal. However, many times it’s quicker to receive an ACD dismissal because the preparation leading up to trial and a criminal trial can take even longer.

When Would I Not Want to Take an ACD?

Even though an ACD is an excellent option for many criminal defendants, in certain situations it’s worth considering other options. Some employers and immigration agencies don’t understand what an ACD really means so one on your criminal record might cause confusion. This means that sometimes pleading guilty to disorderly conduct or another simple violation offense may a better choice. For example, if your job requires extensive background checks or security clearance checks, if you are preparing to be licensed by an agency like the State Bar of New York, or if you are not a United States citizen it would be wise to ask a criminal defense attorney what possible consequences an ACD might have on your life and make the best choice for you.

What About ACDs with Qualifications?

Though most ACDs require a defendant to do nothing, sometimes they are only offered with certain conditions. Because it’s not a guilty plea, a defendant can’t be sentenced to a punishment like jail time or paying fines. However, community service isn’t considered a punishment so you may still be asked to perform community service in exchange for the court offering you an ACD. Your ACD may also be conditioned on paying restitution to someone you’ve injured. However, neither community service nor restitution are an admission of your guilt.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime is a serious concern for anyone; it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to settle your case without creating a criminal record for yourself when possible.  If you are facing a potential misdemeanor charge, it’s important you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to try to secure an ACD or other favorable result on your behalf. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered and learn about your options today.