Understanding the difference between disposition and sentencing is crucial for interpreting a candidate’s criminal history in a background check. This guide will clarify these terms and their implications.

Understanding the difference between disposition and sentencing is essential for accurate background checks. Disposition refers to the outcome of a criminal case, while sentencing details the punishment given. Employers must comprehend these terms to interpret background check reports correctly.

What Does Disposition Mean?

In a criminal case, a disposition refers to the outcome. It shows whether the defendant is acquitted, convicted, or if their conviction is vacated. Sometimes, a sentence may be postponed or put on hold while the defendant fulfills probation or other requirements.

Common Dispositions in Criminal Cases

  • Conviction: Found guilty or pleaded guilty.
  • Deferred Adjudication or Diversion: Disposition deferred pending treatment or probation.
  • Acquitted: Found not guilty, indicating insufficient evidence.
  • Charges Dismissed: Case dropped by the district attorney or judge.
  • No Charges Filed: No charges have been brought forward.
  • Sentence Vacated: Guilty verdict or plea erased.
  • Pending: Case still open.
  • Suspended Sentence: Sentencing delayed pending conditions.

What is Sentencing in Law?

A sentence is the consequence following a conviction. It may include fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment. Sentencing varies with the crime’s severity, with felonies leading to longer sentences than misdemeanors or infractions.

Does a Disposition Show Up on a Background Check?

Yes, dispositions appear on a background check if they are part of the candidate’s criminal history. Employers must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state or local fair hiring laws. These laws can limit the information reported, such as non-conviction records or certain older offenses.

Compliance with FCRA and Ban the Box Laws

Employers must adhere to the FCRA, which restricts the reporting of non-conviction information to 7 years. Some states also limit reporting of convictions to 7 years. Additionally, Ban the Box laws may impose further restrictions.

How to Interpret Criminal Background Checks

  • Conviction: Indicates guilt.
  • Deferred Adjudication: Conditional deferral.
  • Acquitted: Not guilty due to insufficient evidence.
  • Dismissed: Charges dropped.
  • No Charges Filed: No charges were brought forward.
  • Vacated: Guilty verdict erased.
  • Pending: Ongoing investigation.
  • Suspended Sentence: Delayed sentencing.


What is a criminal case disposition?

A criminal case disposition is the final outcome of the case. It determines whether the defendant is convicted, acquitted, or if the charges are dismissed. Dispositions can also include outcomes like deferred adjudication or cases pending further action.

How does deferred adjudication affect a background check?

Deferred adjudication shows that the court has postponed judgment while the defendant completes probation or other conditions. If the defendant meets all conditions, the case may be dismissed. However, the record of the deferral will appear on background checks until it is resolved.

What is the difference between an acquittal and a dismissal?

An acquittal occurs when a defendant is found not guilty, meaning there was not enough evidence to convict. A dismissal, on the other hand, happens when the case is dropped by the court, often due to procedural issues or lack of evidence. Both outcomes mean the defendant is not convicted, but they occur under different circumstances.

Will a vacated sentence appear on a background check?

Yes, a vacated sentence will appear on a background check. It indicates that a previous conviction has been set aside, often due to legal errors or new evidence. While the original conviction is erased, the record of the vacatur process remains accessible.

Do juvenile records show up on background checks?

Generally, juvenile records are sealed or expunged and do not appear on standard background checks. However, some serious offenses may still be visible if the juvenile was tried as an adult. Employers must follow state-specific laws regarding juvenile records.

What are Ban the Box laws?

Ban the Box laws restrict employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history on initial job applications. These laws aim to reduce discrimination and provide candidates with criminal records a fair chance during the hiring process. The specifics of these laws can vary by state and locality.

How does a pending case affect a background check?

A pending case indicates that the legal process is still ongoing and has not reached a final disposition. This status will appear on background checks, alerting employers to the unresolved nature of the case. Employers must consider the implications of a pending case in light of relevant laws and regulations.


Understanding disposition and sentencing is essential for interpreting background checks accurately. Compliance with relevant laws ensures fair hiring practices. Consider using GCheck’s services for comprehensive background check solutions.