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Do I Have to Report or Disclose a Withheld Adjudication?

If you have had an adjudication withheld against you in a court of law, you may be wondering what to do about it when it comes to applying for a job. After all, lying on a job application is about the worst thing you can do. But how is an adjudication withheld ruling classified and what is your prospective boss likely to find out anyway if he runs a background check?

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about adjudication withheld judgments, job applications, and criminal background checks so you can apply for a job with confidence.

If you have been up in court for a relatively minor offense and have a good lawyer, it is possible that you may have managed to persuade the judge to withhold his adjudication as long as you agree to comply with certain requirements laid down by the court.

This is obviously preferable to being found guilty of an offense but can cause a few problems in the future. These problems generally arise because a lot of people don’t understand what an adjudication withheld ruling actually means. In particular, employers running background checks on applicants who come across such a ruling will often assume this means they have a criminal conviction to their name.

In this guide, we will explain clearly and concisely what an adjudication withheld ruling actually means, how it is classified, and how a prospective employer might find out about it. We will also show you how you can check your own record to see if an adjudication withheld ruling shows up and explain what you can do if it does.

What is a Withheld Adjudication?

An adjudication withheld is a type of plea bargain that any lawyer can attempt to negotiate with a judge.

It means that a court is not formally finding you guilty of the offense you are accused of. Instead, they are withholding their judgment. The agreement will generally require you to complete a diversion program such as community service or a rehabilitation program.

If you do this to the satisfaction of the court and don’t get in any further trouble in the meantime, the charge against you will be dismissed.

If you don’t do this or do get in further trouble with the law, the Judge reserves the right to review this case and issue a more formal punishment such as a fine or a jail term.

Does a Withheld Adjudication mean you have a criminal conviction?

No. If you have an withheld adjudication against you, you have not been formally convicted of a criminal offense. But you have not been cleared of it either.

The case has not been dismissed but is on hold while the defendant completes the diversion program and any other requirements laid out by the judge.

Once you have completed that to the satisfaction of the court, then the case will be dismissed and the offense will not be recorded on your criminal record.

Do you have to disclose an Adjudication Withheld ruling?

When you apply for a job, you are almost certain to asked about your criminal history. One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether you have to declare an Adjudication Withheld ruling in these circumstances.

It is a tricky question to answer honestly and if there is one thing worse than declaring a criminal history on a job application it is being caught lying about your criminal record.

Giving an honest answer can depend on how your prospective employer has asked the question.

If they ask, “have you ever been convicted of a crime”, then you are within your rights to answer No. An adjudication withheld is, by definition, not a criminal conviction.

But if they ask something like whether you have pleaded guilty to a crime, been charged with a crime, appeared in court on a criminal matter or had some type of withheld or deferred adjudication, you would probably have to answer yes.

The choice of how to answer this question is down to your judgment. But there is one other important factor to bear in mind. The chances are that your prospective employer will also run a criminal background check on you.

Why it’s worth checking your own criminal history

Anyone has the right to view your criminal record, including yourself. While employers tend to use professional background checking sites, there are also a lot of public background checking sites out there that anyone can use.

These will use many of the same data sources and reveal much of the same information. They are an ideal way to see what information shows up on your own criminal history and give you ammunition to get any mistakes fixed before your prospective boss sees them.

Running a background check on yourself is quick and easy. In fact, the hardest part of the process is choosing which site to use. There are hundreds of background checking sites on the market these days and they all claim to be the best in the business.

Of course, in reality, some are far better than others. So, which should you choose?

We have been testing all the top background checking sites to see which offer the most accurate and comprehensive criminal record information. The results of these extensive tests are now in and we found that there were two sites that performed noticeably better than the rest.

Therefore, our top two recommended criminal background checking sites are:

1. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is another site that really impressed us with the accuracy of its results. It rarely put a foot wrong in our tests and their detailed results were produced in well designed and easy-to-read reports. There is a 24/7 customer support line that is accessible on a toll-free number meaning assistance is available around the clock and for free.

TruthFinder uses a two-tier pricing structure, with a one-month subscription from $27.78 or $23.02 for two months deal. Their basic package offers a full criminal record check which should return such information as sex offender registers, driving records, and data about known relatives.

If you want to pay more for their premium package, you will get every record available including hard-copy records dug out of county court archives. TruthFinder’s big USP is its accuracy so if you want to be confident you have the right information, they are an excellent choice.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Looking for deep insight into your own public record? Try TruthFinder, one of the industry titans. Get the service with our generous reader discount.

2. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate impressed us with its ability to combine super-fast searches with the accuracy of its results. No site was faster in our tests but that didn’t come at the expense of accuracy. Its comprehensive criminal records searches will dig out complete criminal records as well as things like sex offender registers, details of relatives, address history, and social media records.

The information they find is presented in well-laid out and easy to follow reports which feedback suggests users really like. Managing searches is also simple thanks to their excellent desktop dashboard and user-friendly mobile apps.

Prices for Instant CheckMate start at $34.78 per month, but if you choose a three-month subscription you can pay just $27.82 per month. This is a bit more than other sites but if you need accurate results and you need them fast, you won’t go far wrong with Instant CheckMate.

What is a criminal background check?

A criminal background check is a crucial step in almost every job application these days. Your prospective employer will want to run a search through public files to check that you are telling the truth on your resume about your background, your experience, and your criminal record.

Criminal records are held in the public domain and everyone has the right to view the criminal history of any US citizen.

In the past, this wasn’t easy to do as records were held in hard copy only. But the advent of the digital age has seen most criminal records come online and made searching through them a lot easier.

Background checking sites have responded to this by created automated tools that can search through digitized criminal records and other publicly held data and pull together a report on just about anyone in the country.

The sort of information that a criminal background check will dig up includes:

  • Full criminal records – A background check can reveal any criminal record held at State, Federal, or County level. Criminal background checks will reveal up-to-date details on all felony and misdemeanor offenses. If needs be, sites can also send runners to search out any undigitized records to ensure their report is complete.
  • Sex offender registers – If you have signed the sex offenders register at either Federal or State level, a criminal background check will be able to find this out.
  • Driving records – background checks routinely search through driving records. This means that any minor traffic violations that haven’t made it onto your criminal record can also be revealed.
  • Civil Records – Any civil cases, bankruptcies, tax liens, or court judgments filed against you will be found by a background check. They can also show up any FCRA, DPPA, and GLB complaints.
  • Arrest data – If you have been arrested, this will show up on a background check even if you were never charged or convicted of a crime.
  • Personal data – Criminal background checks also confirm your personal details including full names, recent addresses, family members, properties owned, business directorships, employment history, education records, and more.

These reports provide a compelling picture of what that person is like and include a wealth of detail include their entire criminal history.

Little wonder that employers and lots of other professional bodies now use background checks before hiring people, renting properties to them, and for many other reasons.

Will an Adjudication Withheld ruling show up on a criminal background check?

Withheld adjudication can and will show up on a criminal background check.

If you have a withheld adjudication against your name, you will have been arrested, charged with an offense, and appeared in court. All of this will be recorded on your file and will, therefore, show up on a criminal background check.

This means that if your prospective employer is not familiar with the technical definition of a withheld adjudication, they are likely to assume that you have been convicted of a crime.

There are some scenarios where a withheld adjudication might now appear on your background check. There are rules and regulations governing the use of background checks for professional purposes.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers are not allowed to consider any criminal records that are more than seven years old. In some states, there is legislation to make this time period shorter.

That means that if your withheld adjudication was more than seven years ago, it shouldn’t show up on a criminal background check. But there are no guarantees on this. Sometimes court records can be wrong or databases are not updated quickly and accurately and your record can be wrong.

It is always a tragedy when someone loses out on a job because of errors like this. But there is a surefire way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you; run a background check on yourself.

The advantages of honesty

A background checking site will give you an advance warning of what a prospective employer might see on your record. But if it does reveal that your withheld adjudication does show up on a criminal background check, that doesn’t mean you should give up on the job.

Some employers will know what a withheld adjudication means and others won’t. But if you know what shows up on your record, you can be open and honest in your application and explain the situation clearly.

While you can legitimately claim not to have any criminal convictions on your application, you might also want to include a note explaining that you do have a withheld adjudication on your record.

This gives you the chance to explain what that means and also the circumstances behind your particular offense. By controlling the narrative in this way, you have a much better chance of being considered for the role than if your prospective employer thinks you have been trying to hide something from them or deceiving them.


A withheld adjudication is not technically a criminal conviction. But that doesn’t mean that a prospective employer won’t mistake it as one if it shows up on your criminal background check.

In this article, we have explained exactly what a withheld adjudication is and how it is classified. We have offered some advice on how to present such a ruling on a job application and how to see whether yours will show up on your record. We have also recommended the best site to use to check your own criminal history for withheld adjudications.

Have you ever missed out on a job because your employer found a withheld adjudication on your record? Have you applied for jobs and had to explain away a withheld adjudication? How did it work for you in practice? Do you have any tips for our readers we have missed out in this guide? It is always helpful to hear about real-life experiences so why not share yours with our readers today using the comment box below?

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