Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help if My Disposition is Wrong on the Certificate?
Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help if My Disposition is Wrong on the Certificate?
Having the wrong disposition on your criminal record can cause all kinds of problems. It can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or get approved for loans. So what can you do if there is an error on your disposition? The good news is that a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help get it corrected.
What is a Disposition?
First, let’s make sure we understand what a disposition is. The disposition is the final result of your criminal case – whether you were found guilty, not guilty, the charges were dropped, etc 1.
It’s basically the outcome that gets marked on your criminal record.Some common dispositions include:
- Not Guilty
- Deferred Adjudication
- No Charges Filed
The disposition shows up on background checks and is a permanent part of your criminal record. It’s important that it’s accurate, because any mistakes could come back to haunt you.
Why the Disposition Matters
The disposition on your record matters because it indicates to others whether or not you were convicted of a crime. For example, an employer doing a background check will look at the disposition to see if you have any convictions. If your disposition says “guilty” but you were actually found “not guilty,” then it looks like you have a conviction when you really don’t.Having the wrong disposition can prevent you from getting jobs, professional licenses, housing, loans, and more. It basically inaccurately paints you as a convicted criminal when that’s not the case. So it’s critical to get any errors fixed.
How Disposition Errors Happen
There are a few ways a wrong disposition could end up on your record:
- Clerical error – The court clerk simply made a mistake inputting the data. Humans make errors, and entering dispositions into the system is no exception.
- Confusion over pleas – If you originally pleaded guilty but later changed your plea to not guilty, the system may still show guilty.
- Charges changed – Prosecutors sometimes reduce or change charges as part of a plea deal. The final disposition may not reflect changes.
- Multiple charges – For cases with multiple charges, the disposition of each charge may be entered incorrectly.
- Failure to update – If the disposition was later changed or vacated, the record may not have been updated.
As you can see, disposition errors can happen fairly easily. The good news is they can also be corrected.
Checking Your Disposition
The first step is to check your disposition so you know if there is an error. You can get a copy of your criminal record from the court clerk’s office that handled your case.You can also get a background check report to see what employers would see. Be sure to check the disposition listed for each charge, not just the overall case disposition. Any discrepancies need to be fixed.If you see any errors or something doesn’t look right, don’t panic. This is exactly why criminal defense lawyers can help.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
If the disposition on your record is wrong, a criminal defense attorney has several options to pursue getting it corrected:
- Request a disposition clarification – The lawyer can file a motion asking the court to issue an order clarifying the correct disposition if there is a mistake.
- File for post-conviction relief – In some cases, they may be able to reopen your case and get the inaccurate disposition vacated or changed.
- Request record sealing or expungement – If the error can’t be fixed, they may be able to get your record sealed so the incorrect disposition doesn’t show up on background checks.
- Negotiate with prosecutors – The lawyer may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to get errors corrected or charges dropped from your record.
- Update databases – They can contact background check companies and other databases to update incorrect dispositions in their systems.
- Provide evidence of errors – Having an attorney present evidence of the mistakes to the court, prosecutors, and record keepers can add credibility to the requests for corrections.
The strategies available depend on the laws and procedures in your state. An experienced local criminal defense lawyer will know the options in your jurisdiction.
Is it Too Late to Fix an Error?
In most states, it’s never too late to try and correct a wrong disposition 2.
When Do You Need a Lawyer?
Technically you can request disposition clarifications and record updates on your own without legal counsel. But having a lawyer vastly improves your chances of success.Here are some signs it makes sense to hire a criminal defense attorney:
- You already tried to fix it yourself with no luck.
- The error is preventing you from getting a job or other opportunities.
- You have a complex record with multiple charges.
- You are unsure of the options and procedures in your jurisdiction.
- The prosecutor or court clerk is giving you resistance.
- You are worried about making things worse by handling it alone.
Their expertise navigating the system is invaluable. And persistently following up is part of their job.
Finding the Right Lawyer
Not just any lawyer will do. To correct your disposition, you need an experienced local criminal defense attorney. Here are some tips for finding the best one:
- Search for lawyers who specialize in criminal record corrections and expungements.
- Look for someone with years of experience handling criminal cases in your courthouse.
- Ask about their success correcting wrong dispositions for past clients.
- Choose someone you feel comfortable with and can trust.
- Avoid lawyers who promise guaranteed results or make you uncomfortable.
Take time to research options and ask candidates plenty of questions. This is your future, so it’s worth being picky.
What You Can Do Now
While you look for a lawyer, there are a few things you can start doing:
- Get copies of your records so you have everything you need, including the incorrect disposition.
- Gather evidence like court documents, transcripts, or lawyer correspondence showing the actual disposition.
- Make note of anyone you already contacted about the error and their response.
- Avoid further convictions – Getting into more legal trouble will only make fixing the error harder.
Staying organized and avoiding new issues will help smooth the process once you hire counsel.
Don’t Lose Hope!
It’s understandably frustrating and stressful having the wrong disposition out there. Just don’t lose hope. The criminal justice system knows errors happen. So there are remedies available if you take action.With an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, the odds are in your favor. They know how to navigate the system to get inaccurate dispositions corrected.It may take some time and effort. But getting your record fixed is absolutely worth it for your future. So if you see any wrong dispositions, contact a lawyer right away to get started – you’ve got this!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get in trouble for having the wrong disposition on my record?
No, you can’t get in legal trouble simply because there is an error on your criminal record. Mistakes happen, and the error was likely just an accident or oversight. As long as you act in good faith to get your disposition corrected, you have nothing to worry about.
What if I can’t afford a lawyer to help with my disposition?
If you cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer, you may qualify for a public defender or court-appointed attorney. You can request representation at no cost if your financial situation meets the eligibility guidelines. Just explain your situation to the court clerk or judge.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer to fix my disposition?
Costs vary depending on your location and the complexity of your case. Many lawyers offer free consultations, so you can get quotes before hiring someone. Fees are usually hourly, ranging from $100-$300 per hour. Simple clarifications may only take a few hours. More complex cases could reach $2,000-$5,000 or more.
What if I already lost out on a job due to the wrong disposition?
If an incorrect disposition on your record cost you a specific job offer or opportunity, a lawyer may be able to help recover damages in some cases. This would involve filing a civil lawsuit against the court or government agency responsible for the error.
Can a conviction be completely removed from my record?
It depends on the laws in your state. Some convictions are eligible for expungement or record sealing to essentially remove them from your criminal record. An attorney can advise if this is an option. But if your disposition just has the wrong conviction listed, it can likely be updated to reflect the actual outcome.
How long does it take to get a disposition corrected?
It depends on the complexity of your case and the responsiveness of the courts. Some minor clarifications can be resolved in just a few weeks. More complicated errors involving multiple charges or formal hearings could take several months. A lawyer can provide a better estimate based on your specific situation. The important thing is to be patient and persistent.