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I'm applying to colleges and I am worried about how to respond to questions about prior criminal charges. I got an ACD.

This answer was rated "Best Answer" by the person who submitted the question.

One of the trickier aspects of this issue is how to deal with the question, "Do you have any pending criminal charges against you at the moment?" Various clients have shown me this question on various sorts of applications for various situations. Not sure whether such a question is routinely asked in college applications these days. If that question is asked of you and you are in the ACD period, a credible argument could be made for answering it either way in my opinion.

The answer is "yes" because the case is not formally concluded and the theoretical (though statistically highly unlikely) possibility exists that the matter could be restored to the regular criminal calendar and prosecuted. In fact, this argument has apparently been adopted by various entities of the Federal Government, including the military and the folks who deal with Immigration. It is also likely to be the argument that most entities asking the question would agree with.

On the other hand, if I were grading a law school exam and some enterprising student chose to make and defend the argument that the ACD is not "pending" because it is not on the regular court calendar, does not require further court appearances, and is essentially in a sort of limbo "presumptively to be dismissed" state, I would probably give this answer a good grade for its sort of sneaky ingenuity.

In truth it is probably safer, however, to answer the question as if it were a pending case, because having a cute legal argument, while perhaps impressive in an intellectual sort of way, may not be so impressive to an admissions officer who takes the view that you simply lied about it. Typically, as I understand it, and as experience has shown me, your case in the limbo period is available to look up on the webcrims database available to the public on the web. So if someone has the energy to run a specific check on your name in webcrims in hopes of finding an open ACD, that someone could in theory be successful. If that happened, and you had answered "no" to the pending case question, that would be the moment to launch into your clever legal argument based on the arguments mentioned above and perhaps a little legislative intent thrown in there based on a reading of the ACD statue. The question is whether there would be any sympathy or receptivity to such an argument regardless of its merit.

I'm not sure where you lawyer would come out on this issue, and since there are multiple ways of handling it, I would recommend that you speak with your lawyer who is fully familiar with your case instead of relying on anyone else. You paid for his or her services, so take advantage of them.

An open ACD, as I understand it, could influence Federal financial aid determinations, although I believe that may only be or primarily be in the context of situations where the underlying charges are drug related (say a charge that begins with 220 or 221 in the New York Penal Code.).

In the end, I agree that you probably have little to worry about here, but some further discussions with the lawyer who is actually representing you are clearly in order. Please contact that lawyer and get advice from him or her. That is the person who has a notice of appearance in your case, and who is formally and professionally responsible for the advice you get about the case.

Good luck.

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