Courthouse Jargon: Understanding “Lawyer Talk” in the New York City Courts

No criminal lawyer can say they have heard it all before (there is always a new and interesting wrinkle popping up in a case somewhere), but one thing is fairly consistent within the walls of the New York City courts. The judges, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens to the Bronx routinely use their own unique language. While it certainly is not Cantonese, Greek or Hebrew, for most of those people charged with a crime, it could just as well be. While the following is far from a complete list of “criminal lawyer slang,” it should at least be somewhat educational in its scope and address genuine legal terms. Obviously, consult with your own New York criminal lawyer as to your specific case and how these terms may or may not apply.


An Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, or “ACD,” is a non-criminal disposition to a case. There is no admission of guilt on the part of the accused. Upon prosecutors moving for such an offer, the matter is adjourned for six months (one year if it a domestic case or involves marijuana) and ultimately dismissed and sealed. In very limited circumstance the ACD and underlying arrest may be found.


Release on your ow Recognizance, or “ROR,” is when a judge releases you without setting any bail

Plea to the Charge A “plea to the charge” is a recommendation by a prosecutor that you plead guilty to the top or highest count in a misdemeanor information (complaint) or a felony indictment. In such a circumstance, no offer is being made.

Dis Con A “Dis Con,” or Disorderly Conduct, is a violation and not a crime. Although found in the New York Penal Law, a plea to section 240.20 would not give you a criminal record. However, it is imperative to discuss with your attorney the potential collateral issues associated with a “Dis Con.”

30.30 & Speedy Trial New York Criminal Procedure Law section 30.30 is a critically important statute. It relates to “speedy trial” or the time the prosecution has from arraignment to be ready for trial. A felony is six months, an “A” misdemeanor is 90 days and a “B” misdemeanor is 60 days. Discuss with your own counsel how the time is assessed and when it is either “ticking” or stopped.

Corrob or Supporting Dep Most misdemeanor crimes that involve victims or witnesses beyond the police require a supporting deposition or a corroborating affidavit. When there is hearsay, a legal term used to describe a statement made by one party attributed to another for the purpose of establishing the truth as to what was said (confused?), a “corrob” or “supporting dep” is needed to cure this defect in the complaint against you. Without these papers, the case cannot proceed.

Grand Jury The Grand Jury is the body of people that determines whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed with a felony charge. A Grand Jury can vote an indictment (“true bill”), vote a lesser offense or decide not to indict. In New York, you have a right to testify in the Grand Jury. However, it is important to note that not only can a Grand Jury “indict a ham sandwich,” ie, the burden of proof is low, but should you decide to testify, no judge will be present and your lawyer cannot speak.

Indictment Indictment is a document that sets forth the felony and misdemeanor charges against you. An indictment is the official document establishing that a Grand Jury determined there is enough evidence to proceed with at least one felony (and in some cases misdemeanors).


A Pre-Sentence Investigation, or “PSI” (also a Pre-Sentencing Report) is a report, usually drafted by probation, given to a judge prior to sentencing.


In New York City a “DAT,” or Desk Appearance Ticket, is ticket requiring your appearance in court on a future date. This is given to some “E” felony offenses, but mostly non-domestic related misdemeanors where a person does not have a record and has ties to New York. If you do not go to court on the date specified, a warrant wlll be issued for your arrest.

Arraignment An arraignment is when you will see a judge for the first time and be formally charged with a crime. You will have an attorney present who will likely plead “not guilty” on your behalf. What transpires on this date may have a significant impact on your case going forward.

Again, should any of these terms come up in your criminal case (some most definitely will), ask your attorney what they mean directly to you under your circumstances.

For additional information on the various New York Penal Law crimes as well as analysis of cases in the news and legal decisions, please search through the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog or review the Saland Law website.

A New York City law firm, Saland Law focus on representing clients in criminal investigations, arrests and trials. Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, our New York criminal defense attorneys represent the accused in the New York City area.

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