Pleading guilty or resolving a case without a trial does not always mean that you will have a criminal conviction. Of course, an outright dismissal will seal the charge and should not appear on your criminal record. When a dismissal is not possible, fortunately, there are other options available in some cases that will not give you a criminal record.
The main non-criminal dispositions in New York are: violations, traffic infractions, and Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). The maximum jail term for a violation and a traffic infraction is 15 days.
A violation and traffic infraction are “non criminal dispositions,” and considered “petty offenses.” This means that when you plead guilty, you are NOT pleading guilty to a crime. A violation will appear on your criminal record as a violation, not a crime, for a period of one year. After the year, the record of the violation should be sealed; this means that, in general, it should not appear on background checks that employers run. The important thing to remember is that a conviction for a violation or traffic infraction is NOT considered a criminal conviction for purposes of employment or background checks. However, if the question is whether you have ever been arrested, then it is a different story. SOME violations and traffic infractions can have serious immigration consequences, so you should always discuss your specific situation thoroughly with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
An example of a violation is a plea to Disorderly Conduct (P.L. 240.20).
An example of a traffic infraction is Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (V.T.L. 1192(1)).
An ACD is short for an “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal.” In New York, there are two types of ACDs: an ACD pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) 170.56, and an ACD pursuant to CPL 170.55
An ACD pursuant to CPL 170.56 is specific to many marijuana offenses. This type of ACD is available as of right for a first time designated marijuana offense, except in certain circumstances. For example, if you have a previous conviction for a controlled substance offense, you are not eligible for such an ACD. Further, if you have any previous conviction at all, this type of ACD is only permissible if the prosecutor consents. However, such exceptions do not necessarily preclude you from being offered an ACD under CPL 170.55. If granted such an ACD, the case remains open and the court will specify certain conditions that the defendant must follow. The defendant or his or her attorney need not admit guilt or do anything aside from consent to the ACD. The case is adjourned for one year, and on that date, is dismissed automatically if all conditions are followed, such as staying out of trouble with the law. If the conditions are violated, the prosecutor can reopen the case. In practice, though, most New York City District Attorneys’ Offices do not reopen such cases even if the condition or conditions are violated.
An ACD under CPL 170.55 is similar to an ACD under CPL 170.56, except that it is not only applicable to designated marijuana offenses. The period of time for the adjournment before the case is dismissed under this section is only six months. For certain family offenses, though, like domestic violence cases, this period is one year. This kind of ACD, however, is not a right for any defendant. The prosecution must consent to such a disposition. Just like for an ACD pursuant to CPL 170.56, once the defense consents, the case remains open for the applicable period of time (six months or one year), and automatically dismisses and is sealed if the conditions are met or the case is not reopened.