Written by attorney Thomas Arthur Kenniff

The Ins and Outs of the Marijuana ACD in NYC

Summary of Marijuana-related Offenses in New York

According to an article inThe New York Times on February 11, 2011, last year in New York City, more people were arrested on charges of marijuana possession than during the entire period from 1978 to 1996. A total of 50,383 people were arrested, which added up to 140 arrests per day and made marijuana possession the leading reason for arrest in NYC. The full article can be found here:

An arrest for a marijuana-related incident may seem like a minor offense without significant consequences, but if not handled properly could lead to serious ramifications.

Two of the most common marijuana related offenses are:

Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree(NYS Penal Law Section 221.10):

· This law is violated when a person knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana in a public place, and the marijuana is burning or open to public view. It is also violated when a person knowingly and unlawfully possesses one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing marijuana, which are of an aggregate weight of more than twenty-five grams

· This offense is a Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in prison or one year of probation.

Unlawful possession of Marijuana(NYS Penal Law Section 221.05):

· This law is violated when a person knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana.

· This offense is a violation punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

· Note that if a defendant has previously been convicted of a marijuana offense or another controlled substance offense the fines may be increased or a prison sentence may attach.

Many cases involving the two statutes listed above can be disposed of pursuant to an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal or a "Marijuana ACD," pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law Section 170.56. This means that if the Court’s conditions, discussed below, are satisfied, the case is "dismissed" after a certain time period, which is usually twelve months.

A Marijuana ACD might not be available if:

· The defendant has previously been granted a Marijuana ACD or regular dismissal

· The defendant has previously been convicted of any offense involving controlled substances

· The defendant has previously been convicted of a crime and the district attorney does not consent

· The defendant has previously been adjudicated a youthful offender on the basis of any acts involving controlled substances and the district attorney does not consent.

The conditions for a Marijuana ACD are typically twofold: First, the judge may order the defendant to perform some amount of community service or to participate in a short program about marijuana abuse. Second, the defendant must not get arrested or have any involvement with the criminal justice system for a period of one year. 1 If both of these conditions are satisfied, then the case will be dismissed at the end of the one-year period. The defendant will not have to return to court in order for the dismissal to take effect; it is automatic. Note that upon a violation of any condition fixed by the court, the court may revoke its order, restore the case to the calendar, and regular prosecution will proceed. If there has been no violation of a condition and the case is not so restored to the calendar during the period fixed by the court, then, at the end of the period, the accusatory instrument is dismissed in the furtherance of justice, without the defendant even having to return to court. At the time of dismissal, the court orders that all official records and papers relating to the arrest and prosecution be sealed and not made available to any person or public or private agency. The arrest and prosecution shall be deemed a nullity and the defendant shall be restored to the status he or she occupied before the arrest and prosecution. This is very beneficial for employment applications, background checks, and other situations where having a criminal record would produce a negative stigma. In conclusion, marijuana charges can be serious yet manageable offenses in New York City, and the decisions you make now may very well impact your future. Contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal attorney to assist you in attempting to receive a "Marijuana ACD" to avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction.

1 In some instances, judges in NYC will shorten the statutory one-year period upon application of the defendant’s attorney where there is good cause for a departure, such as employment or immigration consequences of the open ACD. This decision to shorten the AVC period is solely in the judge’s discretion. A defendant who has concerns about the consequences of an open ACD should retain a qualified criminal defense attorney before accepting an ACD>

Additional resources provided by the author

for more information on marijauna and drug related charges in New York, visit

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