Almost every job application will ask the question ‘Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense’? For many people, the answer is a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But if you have a deferred adjudication against your name, giving the right answer might seem more complicated.
In this guide, we will explain what a deferred adjudication means, how it is classified, and whether it will appear in a criminal background check. Crucially, we will also reveal how you can answer that crucial application form question honestly and accurately.
Deferred adjudications are a complicated type of legal resolution. But if they are an option, it is quite likely that your lawyer will encourage you to accept one.
At the time, it might seem like the best possible outcome, but further down the line, it can seem confusing. After all, most people don’t really know what a deferred adjudication is. SO, how do you explain it and what does it mean in practical terms? If you have accepted a deferred adjudication, do you have a criminal record or not?
It is a question we regularly get asked in relation to criminal background checks. Many people are unsure whether a deferred adjudication will appear on a check or not and whether they should declare it or not.
In this guide, we will answer all of your questions about deferred adjudications, explain what they mean in law, and how you should represent them to others. We will also tell you how you can check your own criminal record to see if a deferred adjudication shows up and explain what you can do about it.
How can I check to see if my deferred adjudication shows up on my record?
If you want to know whether or not a deferred adjudication still shows up on your record, the best way to check is by running a background check on yourself.
There are dozens of different public background checking sites that any individual can use. For just a few dollars a month you can run as many background checks as you like.
These sites use many of the same data sources as professional criminal background checking sites and are not restricted by FCRA regulations meaning you can often find out even more.
They are easy-to-use and the best sites will return results in no more than a few minutes. The only big challenge for you is choosing which background checking site to use. But we can help you there too.
Our researchers have been testing all the top background checking sites to see which are best at returning accurate and up-to-date criminal record data. They have given special consideration to deferred adjudication records in their tests and have narrowed the market down to two providers who performed significantly better than the rest.
Our top two background checking sites for deferred adjudication records are:
TruthFinder offers thorough and detailed background checks and criminal history reports and as the name suggests it offers a remarkable level of accuracy. Truthfinder can dig out everything from arrest data, sex offender registries, driving records, and deferred adjudications to contact information, financial history, educational background, and employment records. We tried to trick it with misleading information but found it had an impressive habit of still finding the right records.
A one-month subscription to Truthfinder costs just $27.78 or you can pay $23.02 for two months. A basic package includes a full criminal record check including sex offender registers, driving records, and deferred adjudications.
If you pay a little more for their premium package, you will get every record available. This includes hard-copy records from county courts. Managing your Truthfinder searches is easy through either their desktop dashboard or mobile apps for iOS and Android. Prices are extremely reasonable too.
Instant CheckMate is a super-fast background checking service that can deliver consistent and accurate results in moments. Speed is Instant CheckMate’s biggest selling point. In our tests, it delivered results quicker than any other site we tested even when we fed in misleading information. Even more impressive was the consistently accurate results Instant CheckMate was able to deliver.
Using Instant CheckMate to run a criminal background check is simple. 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.
Prices start at $34.78 per month, but if you opt for a three-month subscription you can pay as little as $27.82 per month. This is a bit higher than out other recommend criminal background checking sites but if speed is your top priority Instant CheckMate is definitely worth a few extra dollars.
What is a deferred adjudication?
A deferred adjudication is a type of plea deal. It allows defendants to either plead ‘guilty’ or ‘no contest’ to a charge without technically being found guilty by the judge.
It allows the court to give a defendant a period of probation or a diversion program such as community service or a rehabilitation program rather than a prison term or a more serious penalty.
A deferred adjudication is also sometimes known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or probation before judgment.
Does a deferred adjudication mean you have been convicted?
No. If you have been given a deferred adjudication you have technically not be found guilty of an offense. This is true even if you have had to plead guilty under the terms of the deal.
If you accept a deferred adjudication, it means that the Judge is giving you a chance to avoid getting a criminal record.
As long as you complete the agreed period of probation or diversion program and don’t get into any more trouble in the meantime, you are considered under the terms of law to have atoned for your crime and the court is satisfied.
Do you have to disclose a deferred adjudication?
This is a more complicated question to answer. It really depends on how the question is phrased in the application form you are filling in.
If the question asks, “have you ever been convicted of a crime”, you are safe to answer no. The legal definition of a deferred adjudication is that they are not classified as a conviction.
However, some employers may pose the question differently. If they ask something along the lines of “have you ever pleaded guilty to a criminal offense”, the honest answer would have to be yes.
Others might shape the question as asking about whether or not you have a criminal record. This is even more complicated. Technically, the answer is no. Deferred adjudications are not considered as convictions and therefore will not show up as such on your record.
But this is complicated by the fact that most employers will run a criminal background check on applicants before offering them a job. So, will a deferred adjudication show up on a background check?
What is a criminal background check?
A criminal background check is a search through all publicly available data to find out about a person’s criminal history.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that criminal records are held in the public domain and anyone has the right to look at the criminal past of anyone else. In the past, this was a time-consuming job that involved searching through hard-copy files. As a result, most people wouldn’t go the effort unless they had a very specific reason for doing so.
But digitization has put all of this information online and the background checking industry has sprung up as a result. Background checking sites offer automated searches through criminal records and a wide range of other publicly held data. They pull all the information together into reports that can provide a compelling insight into a person, including their full criminal past.
The sort of information that a criminal background check can find includes:
- Full criminal records – Criminal records are recorded at either State, Federal, or County level. Criminal background checks will search through all this data to find up-to-date details on all felony and misdemeanor offenses. If needs be, many will also send runners to search for any undigitized records manually.
- Sex offender registers – If you have been required to sign the sex offenders register at either a Federal or State level, a criminal background check will find and report this information.
- Driving records – Some major driving offenses will appear on your criminal record but minor infringements usually won’t. A criminal background check will also search through your driving record so all minor offenses will show up alongside more major ones.
- Civil Records – Criminal background checks will seek out any civil cases, bankruptcies, tax liens, or court judgments filed against you and provide full details. They will also show up any FCRA, DPPA, and GLB complaints.
- Arrest data – If you have been arrested, this is a matter of public record. Even if you were never charged or convicted of an offense, this data will still show up on a background check.
- Personal data – Criminal background checks will also confirm your personal details including your full name, recent addresses, family members, properties owned, business directorships, employment history, education records, and so on.
Do deferred adjudications show up on a criminal background check?
Yes. Deferred adjudications will usually show up on a criminal background check.
The reason is that a criminal background check reveals more than just the crimes that you have been convicted of. They also show details of any crimes you have been charged with too. Even though a deferred adjudication helps to keep a conviction off your record, there is no getting away from the fact that you will have been charged with an offense first.
Criminal background checks will also usually reveal how you have pleaded in a case. So, if you did plead guilty as part of your deferred adjudication, your prospective new boss will be able to see that.
The one significant exception to this rule is if your deferred adjudication happened more than seven years ago. Under the regulations imposed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which is the federal law that governs background checks, employers are not allowed to consider criminal offenses of any kind that took place more than seven years ago.
Some individual states have legislated to make that period even smaller. If your deferred adjudication was outside this time restriction, it shouldn’t show up on a criminal background check.
But mistakes do happen. Sometimes databases haven’t been updated, sometimes human error means data has been input incorrectly. So, if you do have a deferred adjudication on your record, it is worth checking to see whether or not it still shows up on your record.
Controlling the narrative
If you have a deferred adjudication on your record and it did happen within the past seven years, there is not a lot you can do to stop a prospective employer finding out about it.
But doing your research and confirming what information shows up on your own background check allows you to control the narrative around this record.
If a deferred adjudication is going to show up on a background check, you may as well be upfront about the fact on your initial application. Honesty can go a long way in these circumstances and being seen to try and hide a criminal record is likely to work against you.
By disclosing the deferred adjudication, you will be able to provide your explanation of the offense and explain what probationary measures you had to comply with. You can give your side of the story and in some cases, this explanation can persuade an employer to overlook what has happened.
If you aren’t upfront, your employer is likely to find out about the deferred adjudication on your criminal background check and will quickly draw their own conclusions about you. If you have the opportunity to control the narrative yourself, this is much better in the long run.
Deferred Adjudications are a terrific option when you are in court and facing the prospect of a criminal record and possible jail time. But later on, they can make life rather complicated.
A Deferred Adjudication does not formally give you a criminal record but it does often involve you pleading guilty and some employers may try to conflate the two things.
In this guide, we have explained how a deferred adjudication work and how they can appear on a criminal background check. We have also detailed how you can see what will show up on your own criminal history check and given you a few tips on how to deal with a deferred adjudication in a job application.
Have you ever accepted a deferred adjudication? Did it make it harder or easier for you to apply for jobs afterward? Did you ever have to explain about your deferred adjudication to a new employer? Do you have any tips for our readers that we haven’t mentioned in this guide? It is always helpful to hear advice and from our readers so if you have any thoughts, do share them with us using the comment box below.