If you have been up in court and had the case against you dismissed, you were no doubt elated to walk out of court without a criminal record. But, you may also be wondering if appearing in court at all could make it harder for you to get a job, rent an apartment, or do other things.
In this guide, we will explain when a dismissed case will show up on a background check and how prospective employers might treat the information. We will also show you how to check your own record to see what information does and doesn’t appear on a background check.
When you have a case against you dismissed by a court, it means you have not been convicted of the crime you were charged with and are innocent in the eyes of the law. With the threat of a criminal record and possibly a jail sentence hanging over you, having a case dismissed is always a cause for celebration. But once life gets back to normal, you may well be wondering if that court case will still affect your life.
In particular, we regularly get asked whether a dismissed case will show up on a background check. Most often, this is because people are planning to apply for a job and are worried about what prospective employers might think about hiring someone who has been charged and appeared in court, even if they were eventually cleared of all charges.
In this article, we will attempt to explain everything you need to know about how dismissed cases will appear on your record and how employers are likely to treat them. We will also explain what information will show up on a background check and how you can check your own records to see what does and does not appear.
How to see if your dismissed case shows up on your record
If you do have a dismissed case on your criminal history, how can you find out if it will show up on your background check? The best way is to run a background check on yourself and this is actually much easier to do than most people realize.
There are two main types of background checks. A professional background checking site is what most employers will use. These sites will be fully compliant with the FCRA and all other relevant US regulations and will only report back information that employers are legally entitled to see.
A public background checking site is a site that anyone can use. It will trawl most of the same data sources and return all the information it finds. Because public background checks cannot be used for employment checks, they do not have to comply with FCRA regulations. As a result, they will show up any information they find.
By running a public background check on yourself, you can see what information about your dismissed case is available on your record. You can see the dates of any criminal history to work out if it will show up on a professional check and also see any media or social media content that might show up.
Best background checking site for dismissed cases
Running a background check on yourself is easy to do. In fact, the hardest part of the process is choosing which site to use.
There are hundreds of different background checking sites and all claim to be the best around. Of course, in practice, some sites are much better than others. So, if you need to run a check over something as important as a job application, how can you be sure you are choosing a site that will return accurate information?
Our researchers have spent the last few months testing all the top background checking sites so you don’t have to. They have put all the biggest sites through their paces with a special focus on how good they are at returning accurate criminal information, including details about dismissed cases.
As a result of this project, we are now able to confidently recommend the best background checking sites to use to check your own records for dismissed case information. Our top two sites for the job are:
TruthFinder more than lives up to its name with an impressive record of digging out accurate and detailed criminal histories. It was able to find everything from arrest data, sex offender registries, driving records, and dismissed cases as well as all the other information you would expect from a background checking site. TruthFinder can function with a minimal amount of information and source information from sources other sites wouldn’t even consider.
A one-month subscription to Truthfinder costs $27.78 or you can save even more by paying $23.02 per monthfor two months. A basic package like this will give you a full criminal record check and most other records, all of which are presented in an extremely user-friendly final report.
If you pay a little more for their premium package, you will see everything. This includes hard-copy records from county courts, obscure records, and relevant social media content too. Managing Truthfinder searches is easy thanks to their excellent desktop dashboard and neat mobile apps for iOS and Android. Prices are extremely competitive as well, especially given the quality of the content.
Instant CheckMate is the site to turn to if you need to see if your dismissed case shows up on your record fast. This site’s big USP is speed. It returns results faster than any other site we tested and it does so without compromising on accuracy. In our tests, it delivered results that were both super-fast and super-dependable, with a remarkable accuracy rate even when we fed it misleading information.
Using Instant CheckMate is easy. All you have to do is sign up, enter the basic information of the person you want to check up on and then wait a couple of minutes. It will quickly search through thousands of data sources and return relevant and accurate information in a digestible final report in a matter of minutes.
Prices start at $34.78 per month, but if you want a three-month subscription you can save quite a bit as this package costs just $27.82 per month. These prices are a little higher than out other recommend background checking sites but if speed is of the essence, Instant CheckMate is guaranteed to deliver what you need fast.
Does a dismissed case appear on your criminal record?
In the eyes of the law, if a case against you has been dismissed you have been found not guilty of the charges leveled against you. The reasons why cases are dismissed against people can vary. Sometimes, a jury will have found you not guilty of the charges. Sometimes, the prosecution can withdraw the charges if they have lost a crucial witness or piece of evidence. Sometimes, the Judge might dismiss the case because of a technical or administrative issue such as a mistake being made by the prosecution.
But regardless of the reasons why your case was dismissed, it still means that as far as US law is concerned, you are innocent in the eyes of the court. This means that there will be nothing about that case on your criminal record.
Do you have to declare a dismissed case to a prospective employer?
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the answer to this question is no.
Most employers and application forms will ask some variation of the question “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” If you have had a case against you dismissed, you are therefore under no obligation to mention that crime because you have not been convicted. Obviously, if you have been convicted of other crimes, you will still have to declare those.
It is important to read the question carefully though because there are some employers that may phrase it differently. We have seen examples of employers asking if you have ever pleaded guilty to a crime while some ask if you have ever appeared in court or been charged with a crime.
If your application asks the question in this way, you may have to admit to a dismissed case if you want to be 100% honest. But, we should stress that questions like these are not common and we are only aware of a handful of examples of application forms phrasing the question like this across the whole country.
Will a dismissed case show up on an employment background check?
While a dismissed case will not formally appear on your criminal record, if an employer runs a background check on you as part of their application process, which most employers do, they are likely to be able to see a broader view of your criminal history.
Your criminal history contains records of almost any encounter you have had with the law. This includes arrests, charges, and dismissed cases as well as any fines or plea bargains you might have reached that stopped you from getting a formal criminal record but still involved either a guilty plea or accepting some form of diversion program as an alternative to a conviction.
If your employer runs a background check that reveals your entire criminal history, the chances are that they will find out about your dismissed case.
Whether this affects your chances of getting the job or not will depend on your employer. Some may not understand that a dismissed case means you have been cleared of the offense you were charged with. Some may conclude that if you were taken to court, there must have been a reasonable suspicion and this means you cannot be trusted.
Under US law, employers are not permitted to use such information as grounds not to hire a person. But there is no doubt that some will still do so.
If the dismissed case against you happened more than seven years ago, you may be in the clear. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the law that governs background checks, employers are not allowed to consider any criminal matter that took place more than seven years ago. In some states, the time limit is even shorter.
But this doesn’t guarantee a background check won’t show up details of your dismissed case. Sometimes records and databases are not updated regularly or accurately. Equally, if your case gained media coverage or has been mentioned on social media, it could still show up on a check.
What to do if your dismissed case does show up
Running a background check on yourself can put your mind at ease if it doesn’t show up the dismissed case that you were concerned about. But what can you do if details of that case do appear?
If there is an error in the records, you might be able to go back to the court or the background checking site itself and try to fix it. Courts do sometimes fail to tell information sources about changes in the status of a case while sometimes the databases used by background checking sites are not updated quickly or correctly.
In these circumstances, you can try to get the information updated or changed but be aware that this can take time and there are no guarantees that you will get the results you want.
A better bet is to use the old adage that information is power. If you know your dismissed case is likely to show up on an employment background check, it is better to honest upfront and share the narrative around the issue to stop your prospective employer from leaping to the wrong conclusions.
By telling them about the dismissed case, you can make sure they understand that you were acquitted of the crime and explain the circumstances around the case. You can also position yourself as an honest candidate by being upfront about the case.
This approach may not work with all employers but many will appreciate you being so open and honest about a difficult issue and are likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.
It is certainly a much better approach than allowing a prospective boss to find out about the case on their own. This is likely to leave them suspecting the worse and searching for a reason not to take your application further.
A dismissed case will not make it onto your formal criminal record which means you won’t have to declare it in most job applications.
But the truth is that a dismissed case will still show up on an employment background check so the chances are that your prospective boss will still find out about it. In this guide, we have explained why that is and also given you some tips on how to manage the situation.
We have also explained how to run a background check on yourself to check your own records and be prepared for any eventuality.
Have you ever missed out on a job because of a dismissed case on your records? What did you do about it? Have you ever used a background check to see what your record looks like and used the information to manage a job application?
It is always helpful to hear about people’s real-life experiences, so please do share yours with us using the comment box below.