Instant Court Case Lookup
The following is for information purposes only
What Are Dispositions?
When law enforcement agencies arrest a person or a court prosecutes the person, the case will end in a disposition. This is not a sentence and does not mean a guilty verdict.
A disposition is the court's final decision in the outcome of a criminal case. In essence, it brings a criminal case to its conclusion.
When running criminal background checks, dispositions usually give a view of any convictions, non-convictions, arrest records, and any pending cases. When it results in a conviction, the convicted person's criminal history record will usually show up in background checks.
What Are the Different Types of Dispositions?
Some of the common dispositions according to state law include:
- Convicted - this happens when the defendent is found guilty.
- Acquittal - the happens when the defendant is found not guilty. Being found not guilty isn't necessarily a determination of innocence. A court may find a person not guilty because the criminal justice agencies couldn't find enough evidence for a conviction. An acquittal may be the result of a lack of suitable evidence.
- Dismissal - is where the prosecutor or judge drops the charges against the defendant, and the case doesn't go forward.
- Charges dropped/No charges filed - where an arresting agency (like local police or FBI) has accused and arrested a person for a crime, but the district attorney general decides not to pursue the case.
- Vacated - the court has decided that the guilty verdict does not apply in these cases. For all purposes, the person may state that a court has never convicted them of the crime. In such a case, any background checks anyone conducts in search of the person's criminal history information will not show any criminal record.
- Expungement - this is where the deletion of non-conviction information, which includes arrest data such as date of birth, date of arrest, and so on.
- Pending - the case is still under investigation or prosecution.
- Deferred Prosecution - this happens when a treatment program is necessary before prosecution may commence. The court will dismiss the charges after the treatment program is successfully completed. Until the court dismisses the charges, it treats the case as pending.
- Sealed - this happens when the court has closed off access to all or some of the information pertaining to the case. Even these sealed records are still considered a matter of public record. In the case of juveniles, the crime has never officially occured unless the record is unsealed at some later date. A judge will often issue a court order called a gag order to ensure access to court information on the case is restricted.
- Suspended sentence - this means that the defendant will not be sentenced immediately. This may be in the event the court has offered the defendant a chance to complete probation, community service, or a treatment program. Suppose the person doesn't break the law during the period of probation, community service, or treatment program and fulfills the particular conditions. In that case, the court reduces the degree of the infractions or dismisses the charges entirely.
There are also other types of "modified" dispositions that include:
- Amnesty - this is where the defendant is forgiven for their crimes as long as crimes don't reoccur.
- Commutation - the court reduces punishment for the crime committed by the defendant.
- Pardon - this means the punishment for a crime is set aside by the court.
- Reprieve - the court relieves sentence or punishment for a while.
A final disposition signifies the end of a criminal prosecution.
Where Are Disposition Records Found?
Court record information can be found in a number of places. One can find disposition information:
- From online sources - most courts store their records electronically. This means one can get disposition data online.
- There is always the option of using PACER to find these records.
- From the courthouse - If the records are not online, one has to go to the court in person. The courthouse clerk has access to disposition information and can assist anyone looking for them, provided the court hasn't sealed the records.