Say What? Understanding Legal Dispositions


Say What? Understanding Legal Dispositions

January 6, 2012

At BeenVerified, we know a lot of the legal jargon that goes along with background checking is kind of confusing (trust us, sometimes we even have to use good ol’ Wikipedia to help us out). So, we thought we’d list some common legal dispositions and put them in some language that we all can actually understand:


A deferred prosecution agreement is a voluntary alternative to adjudication in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for the defendant agreeing to fulfill certain requirements.

So, if you were charged for stealing some chocolate from your local candy shop, a deferred sentence means you get to skip jail time and perform something like 100 hours community service instead. In essence, you get to avoid the ”bad” in exchange for fulfilling some kind of agreement.

Nolle Prosequi

A formal entry upon the record of the court, indicating that the prosecutor declares that he or she will proceed no further in the action. For example, say that owner of the candy store you stole from had a change of heart and actually didn’t want to charge you with stealing some M&M’s. A Nolle Prosequi means that they wouldn’t move any further with the case.

Guilty in Absentia

Oh man, you fell asleep before you made it to your court date! Well, this may mean you’d be Guilty in Absentia, which essentially equates to a trial in which the defendant is not present to answer the charges. So, while you were off dreaming of all the chocolate you got to eat for free, you may have been charged for the offense regardless, even though you weren’t physically there

Dismissal Without Leave By DA

A Dismissal Without Leave By DA means that the district attorney (DA) does not have permission to amend or refile the complaint; it is dismissed completely. Maybe the candy shop owner actually went out of business just as things were getting going and decided to refrain from moving forward. Or perhaps the funds for a lawyer just weren’t there. Either way, the complaint was retracted and therefore dismissed without leave by the DA, leaving the case null.


When people talk about a case getting dismissed, it essentially means termination of court jurisdiction over a defendant in relation to charges before court or prosecutor. Things are basically thrown under the rug. However, there are two kinds of dismissals:

  1. Dismissals with prejudice means that there is no reopening of case, even if the prosecutor somehow changes their mind in the future.​
  2. Dismissals without prejudice means that the case could be reopened in the future for whatever reason. Usually though, a case is reopened if the defendant doesn’t fulfill their end of the bargain. So, if you didn’t pay the candy shop owner back for the stolen sweets, the case could be reopened again.


This one is pretty easy. Being guility means you’ve committed the crime, through your own admission or through the finding of a judge or jury.


A sentence forms the final explicit act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence can generally involve a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime. Sentencing is usually the end of the road for the defendent and where they receive their formal penalty.


The verdict that results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime. You can be convicted of anything from petty theft to homicide. So, once you stand trial for stealing that candy, you may be convicted of robbery, which will eventually end up on your public record.

What do you guys think?

Any other confusing terminology out there we can explain for you?

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.