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Deferred Judgment on Background Check: What Does it Mean?

Michelle Wilson - July 23, 2022

Deferred Judgment on Background Check: What Does it Mean?

When filling out a job application, many applicants get confused by the question asking if they’ve been convicted of a crime. Although you may not have a conviction on your record, you have deferred adjudication. With good reason, you’re probably trying to determine whether you must disclose the deferred judgment to your employer.

Deferred adjudication is also an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or probation before judgment. This consideration is a type of plea deal that allows many defendants the opportunity to avoid formal criminal convictions. The defendant will agree to plead “no contest” or “guilty” to a charge. In return, the court allows the defendant to complete a diversion program or probation instead of prison time. Diversion programs may include community service, rehabilitation treatment, or something else.

What Does a Deferred Judgment Mean?

Technically, anyone offered a deferred judgment hasn’t been found guilty of a crime. As such, you don’t have a conviction on your record. When filling out an application, you can confidently say you have not been convicted of a crime. The wording here is essential because some employers may ask whether you’ve ever pleaded “no contest” or “guilty” to a criminal charge. If that’s the case, you must report the deferred adjudication to remain truthful on the job application.

Should You Tell an Employer About a Deferred Judgment?

Ultimately, disclosing the deferred adjudication on your own may be a good idea, even if the required questioning doesn’t require you to do so. All deferred judgments will show on a criminal background check. The employer will uncover the crime you were charged with and the plea you entered at the time of judgment. If you disclose the deferred judgment upfront, remaining honest and transparent, it allows the opportunity to provide background details. The background details may include what happened, what you’re doing for the probationary measure, control of the nature of your criminal record, and the overall connection with the employer.

Other Factors Influencing Your Employment

Another criminal aspect to consider when applying for a position is banning the box and expungement. When applying for a job where “ban the box” laws are in force, you won’t be asked by an employer to disclose your criminal history. Unfortunately, this also means an employer won’t learn about any criminal details until the criminal background check runs.

With an expungement, a deferred judgment in which the probation was supposed to occur could be eligible for removal. Once you have completed the requirements stipulated through the court, an individual could be eligible to formally dismiss the case (or to have the record sealed or expunged). In these cases, an applicant will no longer have to disclose any details of the criminal activity, nor should the details appear in a background check.

What Appears on a Criminal Background Check?

A potential employer will want to know whether a potential applicant has a criminal record before hiring. If a person has been convicted of multiple crimes, the employer may pass on hiring due to potential issues this may cause later on. During a criminal background check, certain things may appear.

These criminal items include the following:

  • All records of incarceration
  • Court decrees, judgments, and orders
  • Any arrests within the last seven years
  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions
  • Any sex offenses or convictions

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibits records involving civil suits from appearing in the standard background check. This also includes any arrests made over seven years ago.

Fingerprint Background Checks

As the name suggests, this screening uses a person’s fingerprints to learn more about their history. One of the most significant benefits of this search type is that all records belong to the applicant in question. Additionally, an employer may require a fingerprint check before securing the role within the company.

The nature and purpose of a fingerprint screening will vary. It largely depends on what type of information was requested. Most situations will include screening against the FBI criminal records database. Another option consists of the AFIS database system, which can be used individually or in addition to the FBI system.

Understanding Misdemeanors and Arrests on Background Checks

When an employer runs a criminal background check, it will typically show all misdemeanor criminal convictions and any pending cases. It’s essential to note that misdemeanors aren’t as serious as felonies, and they likely don’t carry the extreme sentences that felonies do. Some examples of misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, trespassing, vandalism, and public intoxication.

With arrests, results may become tricky. When an arrest doesn’t result in a conviction, it may appear on some criminal background checks. This is also true if the case filing was within the last seven years. Currently, both state and federal laws allow this reporting. A few employers will exclude these results to ensure that the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are met.

Will Results Over Seven Years Appear?

It’s a common misconception that criminal convictions over seven years old will not appear on background checks. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most states. Although some states restrict the release of these records (for instance, records older than seven or ten years), others don’t follow the same standard. If you’re concerned about these records, reviewing the rules in your area before applying for a specific job is always best. Remember, any juvenile records or sealed documents will not appear on a background screening, regardless of when they happened.

What To Do If You’re Unsure of Your Criminal Record

If you haven’t been caught up in potentially illegal activities, you probably have nothing to worry about for your background check. Most people know of any criminal arrests, charges, or convictions within the last ten years. Unfortunately, anyone who may have had past activities or actions against them might want to take pause.

It’s always best to order a background check to confirm what items appear under the criminal section. Carefully review any items on the report for accuracy and any statute of limitations. If you see something you don’t recognize, report it immediately. Occasionally, instances of mistaken identity happen, especially if you have a common name.


Currently, deferred judgments will appear on a background check report, as they are an admission of guilt. The criminal activity relating to the deferred adjudication will also appear on the file, making it essential to be transparent with potential employers. Explaining the charges, arrest, or probationary period to an employer allows the applicant to control the narrative instead of receiving the details in a report without context.

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