The ACD: Why the Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal is so Valuable to New Yorkers Charged With a Crime

Short of going to trial and getting an acquittal, short of getting a criminal case dismissed on a motion or dropped by the prosecutor due to faulty evidence, the next best result for the criminal defendant in New York is an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of his case.  The adjournment in contemplation of dismissal – or ACD as it is known by those who practice in the justice system – provides for a full dismissal of the charges in the interest of justice following a period of time, usually six months, as long as the defendant does not get rearrested during the adjourned period.  Any of the best criminal defense attorneys in New York will tell you that fighting for an ACD can be crucial as the result makes even the arrest a nullity – and will have no impact on any future job or educational possibilities. 

An ACD is Almost As Good As a Straight Dismissal 

There are numerous advantages to an ACD in New York: first, as noted above, the defendant will end up with no criminal record – and when answering the question on a job or college application of whether or not he or she was ever arrested for a crime, can honestly answer no.  New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.55(8).  An ACD is not an admission of guilt and the arrest and prosecution are “deemed a nullity.”  The defendant is “restored … to the status he occupied before his arrest and prosecution.”  Next, because there is no conviction there is no period of probation to deal with: no checking in with a probation officer and no restrictions on employment, travel or residence.  Despite taking an ACD, additionally, the defendant can still sue for false arrest, false imprisonment and use of excessive force by the police.  None of that is impacted because the ACD, while not a finding of innocence, wipes the defendant’s slate clean.  Of course, should the defendant get rearrested during that six month period contemplated by the ACD, he is just returned to the status he was in at the time of the arrest for the case: he can still file motions, still go to trial with no prejudice as a result of taking the ACD.

In many instances, the prosecutor insists upon some community service in exchange for the ACD.  Defendants, normally thrilled at the prospect of their case being dismissed in this manner, will accept some days of community service. The amount and type of community service – if any – can be negotiated by the defense lawyer.

Not Just For Misdemeanors

And an ACD can be had in any type of charge – not just misdemeanors, although they trigger the most ACDs for sure.  Recently, I represented a doctor charged with a violent felony in New York state court.  After convincing the prosecutor that her victim – and therefore entire case – was flawed, we showed up for a standard court appearance only to learn that an ACD had been offered. We obviously grabbed it and the doctor’s license was unaffected.  Had he been convicted of any felony he could very well have lost his license or been suspended for a period of time from practicing medicine.

Sometimes prosecutors will insist upon an ACD offer instead of a straight dismissal no matter how weak their case is.  Most defendants will still jump at the ACD, because the alternative may have to be a trial with all the uncertainties and potential downside of a conviction attached.  In one high profile case I had, however, we did just that: rap artist the Game was charged in Manhattan with Criminal Impersonation of a law enforcement officer.  The case was weak from the start but the prosecution refused to dismiss the charges.  After I publicly guaranteed the case would be dismissed, months later the prosecution offered a no-jail disposition.  We rejected it and an ACD was eventually had after the evidence was dismantled.  The impact of a criminal conviction on an international music star who often needs a visa to enter a foreign country would have been disastrous.

Of course, getting the ACD is not done by the waving of a magic wand; the top New York criminal lawyers will achieve it by one of two ways: by either convincing the prosecutor that the arrest was an aberration in the defendant’s otherwise law-abiding life, or, as noted in the Game’s case, by simply fighting the case long enough and hard enough until the prosecutor gives in.

Call a Top ACD Attorney Today

So if you have a case that you absolutely, positively have to get dismissed, hire a lawyer who can get you that ACD or straight dismissal – or win it at trial if need be.  Call the New York ACD attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman for your free consultation today.