Should I Hire a Lawyer to Request a Certificate of Disposition After an Arrest?


Should I Hire a Lawyer to Request a Certificate of Disposition After an Arrest?

Getting arrested can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Even if the charges are eventually dropped or you are found not guilty, the arrest remains on your record. This can cause problems when applying for jobs, housing, loans etc. One way to try and minimize the damage is by obtaining a Certificate of Disposition that shows the final outcome of the case. But should you hire a lawyer to request this on your behalf? Here are some things to consider.

What is a Certificate of Disposition?

A Certificate of Disposition (also known as a Certificate of Conviction or Certificate of Release) is an official court document that lists information about an arrest, criminal charges filed, and the final disposition or outcome of the case. It will show if the charges were dismissed, reduced, or led to a conviction. The certificate comes directly from the court itself and provides definitive proof of what happened with your case.

Why Get a Certificate of Disposition?

There are several important reasons to obtain a Certificate of Disposition after an arrest:

  • It proves the charges were dropped or you were found not guilty. This can help mitigate any negative assumptions based on just the arrest.
  • It provides official documentation of the final outcome. You can show this to potential employers, landlords etc. to try to avoid being unfairly judged.
  • It clears up any confusion if the arrest is still showing in background checks. The certificate makes it obvious the case was dismissed or you were acquitted.
  • It demonstrates you were not convicted if you need to answer questions about prior arrests.
  • It’s required if you want to try and get the arrest sealed or expunged from your record.

Having certified court documents like a Certificate of Disposition can be invaluable both for your peace of mind and for clarifying your record. But is it necessary to have a lawyer request it for you?

Can I Request a Certificate of Disposition Myself?

In most cases, you can request a Certificate of Disposition directly without needing to go through a lawyer. The process varies by state, but generally involves:

  • Contacting the court clerk’s office in the jurisdiction where the case was handled.
  • Providing information like your full name, date of birth, case docket number etc.
  • Paying a small administrative fee (usually $10-$25).
  • Waiting for the clerk to produce and mail the certificate (up to several weeks).

Some states let you request a Certificate of Disposition by mail or even online. So it is often possible to get it yourself without legal representation. However, there are some potential advantages to having a lawyer handle the request instead.

Benefits of Having a Lawyer Request a Certificate of Disposition

While getting a Certificate of Disposition on your own is usually straightforward, having a lawyer request it for you can provide some additional benefits:

  • A lawyer can ensure the certificate contains all relevant information and is fully accurate.
  • They can advise if other supporting documents are needed to supplement the certificate.
  • A lawyer can follow up and expedite the request if there are any delays.
  • They may be able to get access to the certificate faster than a member of the public.
  • A lawyer can formally review and certify the accuracy of the certificate.
  • They can provide an official copy directly to employers, landlords etc. as needed.
  • A lawyer can explain the legal implications of the disposition and best way to present it.
  • They can immediately flag any errors on the certificate to get them fixed.

Having an experienced lawyer handle obtaining a Certificate of Disposition ensures you get the full value from the document. They can make sure it is accurate, use their legal knowledge to interpret it, and take care of properly distributing copies as needed. This can provide peace of mind the certificate will help mitigate the arrest record.

When Is a Lawyer Necessary to Get a Certificate of Disposition?

In most routine cases, hiring a lawyer just to request a Certificate of Disposition is not essential. But there are some situations where having legal counsel is highly recommended:

  • Out-of-State Arrests: If the arrest was in another state, the process for getting a certificate can be more complex. A lawyer can coordinate with the other jurisdiction.
  • Juvenile Records: Special legal procedures are required to access juvenile records. A lawyer is needed to obtain them.
  • Sealing/Expunging Records: You’ll need a lawyer to prepare the petition and represent you at the hearing if you want the arrest permanently sealed or expunged.
  • Incorrect Dispositions: If there are any errors on the certificate, a lawyer can file the necessary motions to get them corrected.
  • Appealing a Conviction: If you were wrongly convicted and want to appeal, a lawyer is absolutely vital to handle the complex appeal process.

For routine in-state adult arrests that were dismissed or led to acquittal, applying for a Certificate of Disposition is usually straightforward without needing to hire a lawyer. But for more complex situations, having legal expertise on your side can be extremely helpful.

Cost of Hiring a Lawyer for a Certificate of Disposition

If you do decide to have a lawyer request a Certificate of Disposition, what can you expect to pay in legal fees? The cost depends on several factors:

  • Experience level of the lawyer
  • Whether they are a private attorney or public defender
  • If you need additional services beyond just the certificate
  • Which state you are in (fees vary by location)

For a basic Certificate of Disposition request, typical lawyer fees often range from $200 – $500. More complex cases requiring additional work like record sealing or expungement can cost $1000 – $5000+. It’s a good idea to get quotes from several attorneys to find the best rate for your specific needs.

While legal fees do add up, in many cases the benefits of having an expert handle the process can make hiring a lawyer well worth the expense. They can ensure you get full value from the Certificate of Disposition and use it effectively to mitigate the impact of an arrest record.

Alternatives to Hiring a Lawyer

If you don’t want to hire a private attorney, there are some alternative options to look into:

  • Public Defender: If you qualified for a public defender for the original case, contact their office to see if they can request a certificate.
  • Legal Aid: Nonprofit legal aid organizations may be able to provide assistance applying for a Certificate of Disposition.
  • Law Schools: Many law schools offer pro bono clinics where students can help obtain certificates under supervision of licensed attorneys.
  • DIY Online: There are sites like MyRecordFinder that provide low cost help requesting court records.

Checking if any of these options are available in your area can provide a free or lower cost alternative to hiring a private lawyer. Just make sure whoever is handling the request has the necessary experience and qualifications.

Key Takeaways

  • A Certificate of Disposition provides important official proof of what happened with your case.
  • You can request one directly yourself without needing to hire a lawyer.
  • But having legal counsel handle it provides advantages like ensuring accuracy, faster turnaround, and expert advice.
  • Lawyer fees for a basic disposition certificate often range $200 – $500.
  • For complex situations involving juvenile records, expungement etc. a lawyer is highly recommended.
  • Shop around and explore alternatives to find the most affordable option for your needs.

While a Certificate of Disposition is valuable, make sure to weigh the costs vs. benefits of hiring a lawyer or handling it yourself. Consider your specific circumstances and needs. With the right preparation and diligence, you can obtain a certificate that helps demonstrate the true outcome of your case.


How to Obtain a Certified Copy of Your Conviction Record. Nolo. Retrieved November 19, 2023.

How to Obtain a Certificate of Disposition in New York. Rocket Lawyer. Retrieved November 19, 2023.

How Much Does It Cost to Seal or Expunge a Criminal Record? Avvo. Retrieved November 19, 2023.