Disposition vs. Sentencing

In the process of conducting a criminal background check for potential hires, you may run across terms that aren’t part of your regular vocabulary. Is there a difference between being acquitted vs. not guilty? What do the words “disposition” and “sentencing” mean? What other disposition terms are important to know?

Here’s a closer look at what disposition and sentencing mean, how they could impact your background check review process, and how to make informed decisions while following employment laws.

Understanding the information that’s revealed in a criminal background check can be critical for hiring managers. It’s what enables you to make informed choices about the people you hire—to minimize risk, safeguard your assets and employees, and protect your organization’s reputation. 

Both disposition and sentencing relate to the outcome of a legal case, but each term refers to a different aspect of the process. To help you make the best hiring decisions and adhere to fair hiring practices, let’s break down what disposition and sentencing mean, and discuss how the information related to disposition and sentencing might impact your background check review process.

What Does Disposition Mean?

In the simplest terms, a disposition is a court’s final determination in a criminal charge. On a criminal background report, disposition may refer to the current status of an arrest or the final outcome of an interaction with the court in relation to a criminal matter. For example, was the person tried in court and found guilty, not guilty, or was the case dismissed?

When running a criminal background check on a candidate you’re considering for a job, dispositions give you a high-level view of any convictions, non-convictions, and pending cases that may be relevant to the position. 

Here are a few common terms you might come across when reviewing dispositions, along with their meanings:

Convicted: The person has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty.

Deferred Adjudication or Diversion: A court has deferred judgment, typically as part of a plea agreement, to give the defendant the chance to meet requirements such as drug and alcohol treatment, probation, or community service, in order to have their case reconsidered and possibly dismissed. 

Acquitted: The person has been found not guilty. As for the difference between being acquitted vs. not guilty, the terms “acquitted” and “not guilty” are often used interchangeably. Being found “not guilty” is not a determination of innocence. A person may be found “not guilty” because there was not enough evidence for a conviction. An acquittal may also happen when a judge or appeals court decides there is not enough evidence to go to trial.

Charges Dismissed: A prosecutor or judge has dropped charges against the person—the case did not move forward.

No Charges Filed: The person has been accused or arrested for a crime but a prosecutor has decided they will not move forward with a case.

Sentence Vacated: A guilty plea or guilty verdict has been set aside. When a sentence is vacated, the guilty verdict is erased as if the person had never been convicted of the crime.

Pending: The case against this person is ongoing. They are still under investigation or subject to prosecution.

Suspended Sentence: The person’s sentencing has been delayed, often because they have been offered a chance to complete probation, community service, or a treatment program.

As you can see, these terms don’t necessarily reveal whether the person in question was pleading guilty vs. not guilty in court—only the final outcome of the case. 

If you’re wondering, what does court disposition mean? And what does disposition of the offense mean? These are other disposition terms that may be used on a background check, but have a similar meaning. Dispositions always relate to a specific offense. For example, an individual can be charged with three offenses in the same criminal proceeding, and have two of them be dismissed and the other one be a conviction.

What About Sentencing?

Sentencing is the legal consequence of a conviction. To understand the difference between disposition vs. sentencing, think of disposition as the indication of a crime (or the absence of it) and sentencing as the punishment. Sentencing doesn’t apply to every disposition: Clearly, if a case is acquitted or dismissed—and the person is not found guilty—sentencing does not apply.

As far as what shows up on a criminal background check, sentencing information may not be clear at first glance. In some cases, a report will clearly show the sentence date and term. In others, you may not see the sentence given. However, using the date of disposition, you should be able to review a candidate’s history of incarceration and match the sentence to the disposition and offense.

A criminal background check will also reveal any pending cases. Keep in mind that the disposition will change in a pending case if the person is convicted or acquitted in the future and a final disposition is made. The same applies to dispositions with suspended or delayed sentencing. If the person fails to comply with the terms of their probation or treatment program, for example, they may be subject to sentencing in the future.

What Disposition Means On A Criminal Background Check

Ultimately, what do dispositions mean on a criminal background check? For prospective employers, the information revealed in dispositions may have a significant impact on hiring decisions. If a report shows that a candidate has a serious conviction—or even multiple convictions—the perceived risk in hiring them may rise substantially. Additionally, the outcome of a “pending disposition” could affect a candidate’s ability to do a job in the future.

It’s important to note that criminal records and their resulting dispositions may only appear on a candidate’s criminal background check report for a limited time. While felonies and misdemeanors may continue showing up on a person’s record permanently in some states, other states limit this reporting to seven years for felonies, and five or seven years for misdemeanors. Infractions are limited to seven years under federal law. Depending on the types of searches ordered, a criminal background report may contain results from national, federal, state and county databases.

It’s a common misconception that a non-conviction means that a person will not have a criminal record on their background check report. A non-conviction in relation to a criminal matter in the court will always result in a criminal record and may appear on a background check for up to seven years; however, the disposition, or outcome of interaction with the court, is what’s important to understand. 

Background Checks & Compliance

To help employers comply with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and with state laws that restrict the use of arrest records in employment screening, some background check providers, including GoodHire, do not report non-convictions on background check results. (However, GoodHire does report pending cases and convictions that are deemed reportable under federal and state laws to ensure employers are aware of the candidate’s criminal records.)

Because a candidate’s criminal history is sensitive information, it’s important to understand how to read a background check and handle the process with care. In order to run a criminal background check, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to obtain written consent from the candidate, and follow the adverse action process if they decide to decline a candidate based on the results of information found in a background screening. 

Hiring practices must be consistent and non-discriminatory, and should be clearly outlined in your company’s hiring policy. EEOC guidance suggests delaying background checks and records-related inquiries until after making a conditional offer of employment. The EEOC also offers the following guidelines—sometimes called “Green factors” after the case Green vs. Missouri Pacific Railroad—to guide your consideration of a candidate’s criminal background:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense
  • The time elapsed since the offense
  • The nature of the job sought

Get Comprehensive Criminal Background Checks With GoodHire

Making decisions based on accurate, up-to-date information on a candidate’s criminal background can help you minimize risk and ensure a more secure workplace for your organization’s employees and customers. GoodHire’s criminal background checks show felony convictions, misdemeanors, active warrants, and infractions, as well as appearance in sex offender registries.

Working with an accredited employment screening provider like GoodHire can help you access comprehensive criminal background information that is relevant to the position you’re hiring for—including any past or current dispositions and sentences.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

Gayle writes about GoodHire’s screening services to inform employers about background check best practices.

Photo of author

Author J Lipsky

Thank you for visiting businessfinancenews.com

Leave a Comment

Business Finance

About Us

Business Finance News is a brand oriented to business owners and dedicated to analyzing and comparing the cost and conditions of B2B procurement of goods and services through free quotes delivered by business partners.


Address 5050 Quorum Drive, (75254) Dallas TX

telephone 844-368-6072


A personal loan is a medium term loan with a fixed interest rate that is repaid in equal monthly payments and it's usually limited to 24 months. Loan offers and eligibility depend on your individual credit profile. Our lenders can help you obtain as much as $3,000 depending on the lender, your state and your financial situation.

The owner and operator of businessfinancenews.com is not a lender and is not involved into making credit decisions associated with lending or making loan offers. Instead, the website is designed only for a matching service, which enables the users contact with the lenders and third parties. The website does not charge any fees for its service, nor does it oblige any user to initiate contact with any of the lenders or third parties or accept any loan product or service offered by the lenders. All the data concerning personal loan products and the industry is presented on the website for information purposes only.

Businessfinancenews.com does not endorse any particular lender, nor does it represent or is responsible for the actions or inactions of the lenders. Businessfinancenews.com does not collect, store or has access to the information regarding the fees and charges associated with the contacting lenders and/or any loan products. Online personal loans are not available in all the states. Not all the lenders in the network can provide the loans up to $3,000. Businessfinancenews.com cannot guarantee that the user of the website will be approved by any lender or for any loan product, will be matched with a lender, or if matched, will receive a personal loan offer on the terms requested in the online form. The lenders may need to perform credit check via one or more credit bureaus, including but not limited to major credit bureaus in order to determine credit reliability and the scopes of credit products to offer. The lenders in the network may need to perform additional verifications, including but not limited to social security number, driver license number, national ID or other identification documents. The terms and scopes of loan products vary from lender to lender and can depend on numerous factors, including but not limited to the state of residence and credit standing of the applicant, as well as the terms determined by each lender individually. 


APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is the loan rate calculated for the annual term. Since businessfinancenews.com is not a lender and has no information regarding the terms and other details of personal loan products offered by lenders individually, businessfinancenews.com cannot provide the exact APR charged for any loan product offered by the lenders. The APRs greatly vary from lender to lender, state to state and depend on numerous factors, including but not limited to the credit standing of an applicant. Additional charges associated with the loan offer, including but not limited to origination fees, late payment, non-payment charges and penalties, as well as non-financial actions, such as late payment reporting and debt collection actions, may be applied by the lenders. These financial and non-financial actions have nothing to do with businessfinancenews.com, and businessfinancenews.com has no information regaining whatsoever actions may be taken by the lenders. All the financial and non-financial charges and actions are to be disclosed in any particular loan agreement in a clear and transparent manner. The APR is calculated as the annual charge and is not a financial charge for a personal loan product. 

Late Payment Implications

It is highly recommended to contact the lender if late payment is expected or considered possible. In this case, late payment fees and charges may be implied. Federal and state regulations are determined for the cases of late payment and may vary from case to case. All the details concerning the procedures and costs associated with late payment are disclosed in loan agreement and should be reviewed prior to signing any related document. 

Non-payment Implications

Financial and non-financial penalties may be implied in cases of non-payment or missed payment. Fees and other financial charges for late payment are to be disclosed in loan agreement. Additional actions related to non-payment, such as renewals, may be implied upon given consent. The terms of renewal are to be disclosed in each loan agreement individually. Additional charges and fees associated with renewal may be applied. 

Debt collection practices and other related procedures may be performed. All the actions related to these practices are adjusted to Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulations and other applicable federal and state laws in order to protect consumers from unfair lending and negative borrowing experience. The majority of lenders do not refer to outside collection agencies and attempt to collect the debt via in-house means. 

Non-payment and late payment may have negative impact on the borrowers’ credit standing and downgrade their credit scores, as the lenders may report delinquency to credit bureaus, including but not limited to Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. In this case the results of non-payment and late payment may be recorded and remain in credit reports for the determined amount of time.