Criminal Record Dispositions and What They Can Tell Employers

December 23 2021
4 min read

While conducting a criminal background check, one may come across the word "disposition" and question what the definition of this word means. Dispositions include many different facets, all of which can be crucial to making the right hiring decision. Dispositions give employers a high-level view of any convictions, non-conviction, and pending cases, indicating if a candidate was tried in court, found guilty, not guilty, or if the case was dismissed. This information can be beneficial in the hiring progress to see if the candidate is fit for the position. It is also essential to stay up-to-date on state laws regarding what is allowed and not allowed to be reported on a criminal background check. 

What Does Disposition Mean?

The disposition on a criminal record is the current status or final outcome of an arrest or prosecution. There are many different dispositions, but this is a list of the most common dispositions you may come across while conducting a criminal background report:

  • Convicted:
    The defendant has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty by a court of law.
  • Acquitted:
    The defendant has been found not guilty by a court of law in a criminal trial.
  • Dismissed:
    The court or prosecutor has decided that the charge against the defendant should not go forward, resulting in the termination of the case.
  • No charges filed/Charges dropped:
    The prosecutor has declined to pursue the case.
  • Vacated:
    The court has withdrawn the guilty plea or set aside the guilty verdict, and for all purposes, the defendant may state they have never been convicted of that crime.
  • Sealed:
    The court has restricted access to all or some of the content of the record; however, the existence of the record will still be a public record. For juveniles (but NOT adults), the sealed crime is generally treated as if it never occurred unless it has been subsequently unsealed.
  • Expunged:
    The deletion of non-conviction information (such as arrest data).
  • Pending:
    The case is still being investigated or prosecuted.
  • Diversion/Deferred Prosecution:
    The court has delayed prosecution pending the successful completion of a treatment program, at which point the charges will be dismissed. Until charges are dismissed, this will be treated as pending.
  • Suspended Sentence:
    The court has delayed the sentencing for an offense pending the successful completion of a period of probation or successful completion of a treatment program. If the defendant does not break the law during that period and fulfills the particular conditions of the probation, the judge usually reduces the degree of the offense or may dismiss the case entirely.  Until the sentence is reduced or dismissed, this will be treated as pending.

What Does Disposition Mean On a Criminal Background Check?

There are multiple databases that one can access information when conducting a criminal background check. The results can be pulled from national, federal, state, and county databases.

Although infractions on a criminal background check report may only appear on a person's criminal record for a limited time, they can still have a significant effect on the hiring process. Dispositions reveal information that will show if a candidate has had a serious conviction, multiple convictions, or a pending disposition. If certain dispositions are found, this information may have a negative impact on the selection of a candidate as it could pose potential risks.

Reportable vs. Not Reportable 


The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts firms from reporting non-convictions over seven years. So, if a state has not passed a law restricting that information, non-conviction may be reported on a criminal background check. Under the FCRA, convictions can also appear on a background report regardless of the time they occurred. 

Not Reportable:

Reporting requirements on a criminal background check can vary state by state. Some states have restricted both non-convictions and convictions from being reported on a criminal background report. 

As stated above, under the FCRA, non-convictions are reportable up to seven years from the filing date. However, California, New York, and New Mexico have entirely prevented non-convictions from being reported. 

You may have questions about non-convictions and what they mean. Non-convictions could include dismissed cases, not-guilty verdicts, and alternative adjudications. 

States have also passed legislation on the reporting of convictions. The FCRA states that convictions can appear on a criminal background report regardless of when the conviction occurred. However, California, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, and Washington have limited the scope of reporting convictions to seven years. 

Why Should Dispositions Matter to Employers?

Results on a criminal background check report are personal and sensitive information. The hiring process and practices that employers use should be consistent, non-discriminatory, and in alignment with state laws and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to understand how to read a criminal background check report, what dispositions are, and the different meanings they hold to make the best hiring decisions for your organization.

How Orange Tree Can Help

Orange Tree provides up-to-date information on state criminal background laws, so your hiring process is compliant with accurate information.

Schedule a call to learn more about how Orange Tree can help with your criminal background checks.

We recommend employers review and discuss with your legal counsel your organization’s policies and procedures to ensure continued compliance with the changing laws and regulations.