How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Explain Your Certificate of Disposition


How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Explain Your Certificate of Disposition

If you have a criminal record, getting a job or applying for certain benefits can be really tricky. Employers and government agencies often ask for something called a “certificate of disposition” to get more details about your criminal history. But what is that, exactly? And how does it affect your life after an arrest or conviction? This article will explain what a certificate of disposition is, why one might be requested from you, and how a criminal defense lawyer can help make sure your rights are protected when providing this document.

What is a Certificate of Disposition?

A certificate of disposition is an official court record that lists the outcome of a criminal case. It shows the original charges, any convictions, and the sentence handed down by the judge. It’s basically a court document that summarizes what happened with your case from beginning to end. The disposition is the court’s final ruling on the matter.

These certificates are usually required when you apply for jobs, housing, licenses, immigration status, or other government benefits. The agency requesting it wants to confirm your criminal record and make sure you fully disclosed it. For example, if you apply for a home loan, the lender will probably ask for disposition certificates to verify any convictions you reported on the application.

Why Do Agencies and Employers Request Them?

There are a few key reasons an employer, government agency, or other entity might request your certificate of disposition:

  • To confirm your statements about your own criminal record are accurate and complete.
  • To review the details of convictions or arrests you disclosed to determine if they relate to the job, benefit, license, etc.
  • To investigate your background and check for undisclosed offenses you didn’t report.
  • To confirm that arrests without convictions did not actually lead to convictions.
  • To verify that convictions were not more serious than you reported.

Essentially, the certificate of disposition provides more details about your criminal history than a basic background check. It allows the requesting agency to make a more informed decision about your application or employment.

How Can a Defense Lawyer Help?

Navigating disposition certificates can be confusing, but a criminal defense lawyer can help in a few key ways:

  • Get the Details Right – Your lawyer can pull court records and ensure the certificate is accurate and complete. This prevents any discrepancies or negative impressions if information is missing.
  • Explain the Charges – Your attorney can look at the charges listed and explain in plain English what they mean if you’re unsure yourself.
  • Put the Conviction in Context – Your lawyer can provide mitigating details to the requesting agency, like explaining why you pled down to a lesser charge.
  • Advocate for Your Rights – Your attorney can contact the agency to advocate for your employment or benefits if they have concerns after seeing your disposition.
  • Expunge Eligible Convictions – If eligible under your state law, your lawyer may be able to have certain convictions expunged from your record so they don’t show up on your disposition.

Your lawyer serves as your representative and can help present your certificate of disposition in the best possible light. This improves your chances of obtaining the job, license, benefits or other opportunities you seek.

How to Get a Copy of Your Disposition Certificate

Only the court where your criminal case was handled can issue an official certificate of disposition. To get a copy, follow these steps:

  1. Contact the court clerk’s office for the specific court that handled your case. Your lawyer can help identify the correct court if unsure.
  2. Ask about their procedures and requirements for disposition certificates. Many courts have special request forms.
  3. Be prepared to provide your full legal name, birth date, case docket number, and other identifying details.
  4. There is usually a small administrative fee (around $10). Ask about payment methods – some courts only accept money orders.
  5. If approved, the court will mail you an official certificate of disposition, usually within 1-2 weeks.

Some key tips: Get several certified copies so you have them handy for future job or apartment applications. And if any of your cases are sealed, be prepared to go through additional steps to access those dispositions.

Using Disposition Certificates to Your Advantage

Even if your criminal record isn’t perfect, the disposition certificate doesn’t have to be a roadblock. With some smart navigation, it can actually help rather than hurt your application. Here are some strategies to put it to good use:

  • Be upfront from the beginning – don’t wait for an employer’s background check to disclose convictions.
  • Put past offenses in the best context – be ready to briefly explain the circumstances.
  • Highlight positive steps since your conviction – like rehabilitation programs, volunteer work, etc.
  • Emphasize other strengths of your application – skills, experience, passion for the role, etc.
  • Submit evidence of your good character – reference letters from employers, teachers, etc.

While your criminal record isn’t erased, you can still reassure agencies that you are an asset and valuable candidate. With a lawyer’s help, disposition certificates don’t have to be a roadblock to your future goals.

A criminal conviction affects your life long after the court case ends. But knowledge is power – so understand certificate of dispositions, consult an attorney, and advocate for yourself. You can still thrive even with a prior conviction on your record!