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What is an ACD and when should a defendant accept it?

Generally speaking, an offer of an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ("ACD") to resolve criminal charges is usually a very attractive plea bargain offer to a criminal defendant. After all, the most important goal for any criminal defendant should be the dismissal of all criminal charges. Also, individuals receiving an ACD usually have their cases dismissed and sealed after 6 months. Understanding this, are there any negative or unforeseen collateral consequences that come with the acceptance of an ACD?

Under CPL Section 170.55, an ACD is an adjournment of the criminal proceeding against the defendant for a certain period of time -- at the end of which, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed. The defendant is required to "stay out of trouble" during the adjournment period or else the criminal charges may be restored by the prosecutor.

Importantly, according to CPL Section 150.55, an ACD is not an admission of guilt or a guilty plea. Following the adjournment period, the "arrest and the prosecution shall be deemed a nullity" and "the record of such action or proceeding shall be sealed." In other words, it never happened.

If a defendant accepts an ACD, there may be civil consequences effecting their ability to file future lawsuits. While an AD does not affect a person's right to sue the police for false arrest, false imprisonment, or excessive force, it will preclude claims that require a plaintiff to show that a criminal proceeding was terminated in his favor, such as a claim for malicious prosecution.

Each case is unique, and the answer of whether to accept an ACD will vary depending on the defendant's current circumstances and the facts and strength of the criminal case. However, an offer of an ACD must be seriously considered, as there is little downside and it ends the criminal prosecution quickly and efficiently, while avoiding the risks of a criminal conviction, jail time, and any adverse finding by a criminal court.

While it is important to consult with an experienced Brooklyn or Manhattan criminal defense attorney, it is generally advisable to accept an ACD.

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