Do Dropped Charges Show Up on a Background Check?

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It can be tough looking for a job with a criminal record since most employers that conduct background checks prefer not to hire applicants with a criminal history, such as misdemeanors or felonies.

To be fair, this is understandable since companies strive to create a comfortable and safe work environment for their employees and stakeholders. And this usually means rejecting applicants with a past of violence, drug use, or theft.

However, not all criminal convictions get you rejected when applying for a position. For instance, it’s not uncommon for some employers to hire people with minor misdemeanors like reckless driving and disorderly conduct.

But what if you had dropped charges on your record? Do they appear on background checks, and could they hinder your chances of landing a job? That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

Do Dropped Charges Show Up on a Background Check?

Yes, dropped charges will show up on a background check. However, most people of interest won’t mind seeing a dropped charge since that’ll be a sign of your innocence and will only mean you were previously complicated in an arrest or lawsuit.

Will a Background Check Reveal My Dropped or Dismissed Charges?

Criminal records are public information that anyone can access. In addition, when you get arrested for any reason, that incident automatically gets added to your record. And even if the original charges that led to your arrest get dropped or dismissed, your record will still contain them. Therefore, when an employer conducts a background check, they will find an arrest on your record.

However, in that case, your record will state that the charges were dismissed or dropped, which explains to employers that you were never proven guilty of any crimes.

What’s the Difference Between Dropped and Dismissed Charges?

While both dropped and dismissed charges clear your name of any guilt, in the eyes of an employer, dismissed charges will look better on your record than dropped charges.

Charges usually get dropped and dismissed for the same reasons. Most commonly, there is insufficient evidence, new evidence emerges and trumps all previous evidence, or the victim refuses to cooperate by not showing up to court or refusing to provide a witness.

However, dropped and dismissed charges differ in one critical way: dropped charges can be reinstated later if more evidence is found against you. Whereas when your charges get dismissed, you can rest easy knowing they won’t come to haunt you in the future.

Will an Employer Reject My Application if They Find Dropped Charges?

At the end of the day, it’s up to the employer to decide whether or not they want to hire a person with a criminal record. And while it’s general knowledge that most employers don’t hire ex-convicts, it’s also known that dropped charges mean that you were not found guilty of any crimes; therefore, most employers don’t see them as a red flag.

On the other hand, if two people of identical qualifications apply for the same position, one with dropped charges, and another with a clean record, the employer will likely choose to hire the latter.

How Long Will Dropped Charges Stay on My Record?

The Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) aims to protect people’s privacy on things like background checks. They do that by setting expiration dates to items appearing on background checks—for example, ten years for bankruptcies and seven years for civil judgments.

However, when it comes to arrests, convictions, dismissed and dropped charges, they will show up indefinitely on background checks if you don’t do anything about them.

How Can I Get Rid of the Dropped Charges on My Record?

Since any blemishes on your criminal record can never be a good thing, thankfully, you can take some actions to clear your criminal record.

This will be a smart move if you have dropped charges since this gives you a chance of having an empty record, which means increased opportunities of getting hired when applying for jobs, undertaking volunteer work, and securing housing. So if this sounds interesting to you, there are two things you can do to clear your record.

Expunge Your Record

As long as you don’t have a conviction on your criminal record, expunging removes things like arrests, probations, court supervision, and dropped charges.

When you request an expungement, and it gets approved, here’s what you can expect to happen:

  • Your arrest record gets removed from the official databases of the FBI and the state police department
  • Your name is removed from the public record by the circuit clerk.
  • Background checks will no longer show your criminal record.

While expunging your record seems like a spectacular option, you’re probably asking, “why aren’t people constantly expunging their records?”

That’s because in most states you only get to expunge your record once in your life. So while it seems like a waste to use it on dropped charges, you still have that option.

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Record Expunged?

If you have charges on your criminal record, you might consider requesting an expungement before applying to increase your chances of getting accepted.

However, getting your record expunged is no quick task. The process takes anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months.

Seal Your Record

While expunging completely erases charges off your record, making it as if they never happened, sealing prevents most people from accessing certain information on your criminal record. This means your dropped charges are still there, but they won’t show up on the background checks of employers and landlords.

Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies like police departments, the FBI, courts, and the State’s Attorney will still have access to your sealed record.


While dropped charges will appear on your criminal record during a background check, landlords and employers understand that this kind of charge clears your name of any guilt. And most times, it’s people with convictions that can be considered red flags.

Anyhow, if you feel like your dropped charges are hindering your chances at better opportunities, you have the option of expunging or sealing your criminal record. In either case, your dropped charges won’t come up during background checks.