I've been a permanent resident for nine years and I am filling out the N-400 to apply for citizenship. I think I fulfill all the criteria, except I have a single blotch on my record, and I am not sure how to answer the questions on the form, since I do not quite understand some of the legal terms.
About the incident: I got arrested four years ago for Criminal Mischief in the 4th degree in upstate New York, released several hours later on bail. I was assigned a court-appointed attorney. I went to court exactly twice after that: once for my arraignment, the other to pay restitution (about $500 dollars in damages), after which I was told that my case was "adjourned in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) for six months." In the words of my court-appointed attorney: if I did not commit any offenses for the next six months, my case would be sealed and it would be as if the case never existed. I was never asked to enter a plea, nor did I enter a plea, and no community service was assigned -- I just paid the restitution for damages. Six months passed and my ACD was dismissed, as expected.
I have the original "certificate of disposition" from the court that I will attach to my N-400 application, but I am not sure how to answer the following questions on the N-400 form... can anyone help?
Here we go:
Q17: Have you ever been CHARGED with committing any crime or offense?
Well presumably yes, since they arrested me (presumably Criminal Mischief is my charge?), but I don't recall the officer or the judge ever using the language "you are being charged with (something or other)" during this process. The court document says nothing about charging me with anything, it just lists my offense.
Q18: Have you ever been CONVICTED of a crime or offense?
I don't recall anyone saying "convicted" during the court proceedings. My court document says "a judgment of conviction and/or disposition has been entered..." and at the bottom it gives some disposition, dismissal, and case sealed details. So am I convicted? Is disposing, dismissing, and sealing the case a conviction? (I mean, it said "and/or" at the top...)
Q19: Have you ever been placed in an alternative sentencing or a rehabilitative program (for example: diversion, deferred prosecution, withheld adjudication, deferred adjudication)?
Q20: Have you ever received a suspended sentence, been placed on probation, or been paroled?
Does my ACD count as any of these? Should I answer YES or NO to these questions?
I would appreciate any help anyone can give me... I called US CIS and they were only able to read the N-400 instructions back to me, which are not helpful for this specific issue. Background research has also turned up nothing. I am probably going to call the New York court today and see if they can answer any of these questions. I cannot afford a lawyer -- I can barely even pay the application fee.