Do Police Checks Include Dropped or Dismissed Charges?
Once arrested or charged, there are several actions which take place before a case goes to trial. The outcome is never guaranteed, and there are instances where the charges may be dropped or dismissed subject to conditions.
Any convictions you receive by the court will show up on a national police check. This can have a negative impact on certain areas of your life, such as limitations to work and travel opportunities. If you have had a charge previously which has later been dropped or dismissed, you might be wondering whether this will still appear in the results of a criminal record check.
Here is everything you need to know about dropped or dismissed charges, and their relation to an Australian police check.
What is a Dropped or Dismissed Charge?
A dropped or dismissed charge occurs when the court drops or dismisses the charges against you. This can only happen under certain circumstances.
A dropped charge means that the charges against you have been terminated. This means the court no longer seeks action against you, and there is no longer a case.
A dismissed charge occurs when the individual is not convicted of the charges against them. It means you have been found not guilty, and the case ends.
When Does a Dropped or Dismissed Charge Occur?
Charges against you can be dropped or dismissed by the court if the following scenarios occur;
- There is insufficient evidence
- The victim refuses to cooperate
- The victim drops the charges
- The prosecution drops the charges
- New information comes to light
Insufficient evidence means that there is not enough evidence against the individual to result in a conviction.
A criminal charge against anybody must be supported by a sufficient amount of evidence. A lack of evidence will result in a non-conviction or non-guilty verdict.
The prosecution must gather as much evidence as possible before presenting to the court. Failure to do so and the court will dismiss the case.
Lack of Cooperation
Some of the evidence presented at court will rely on the cooperation of the victim. Charges may be dropped should they fail to attend court, disregard court orders or refuse to submit evidence or serve as a witness during the hearing.
Charges are Dropped by the Victim or Prosecution
Charges may be dropped by the victim or the prosecution team either before or during the trial. When this happens, the judge will dismiss the charges and the case will discontinue. This is also known as an acquittal.
Before and throughout a trial, information is continuously being gathered as evidence. If new information surfaces which disproves all of the previous claims made by the prosecution, the court will conclude the case, dismissing any charges.
Do Police Checks Include Dropped or Dismissed Charges?
A dropped or dismissed charge essentially means that there is no conviction recorded. Where there is no record of a conviction due to dropped or dismissed charges, there are no disclosable court outcomes.
Disclosable court outcomes are the convictions which appear on a national police check. If there are none, a result of no disclosable court outcomes will be released on the certificate.
Police checks only contain information about a conviction. As a dropped or dismissed charge is not a conviction, it will not be included in a police check.
What do Police Checks Include?
Mostly, all convictions will be included in Australian police check results. However, a police check discloses information in relation to the purpose of the criminal background check. So depending on the application, not all police information will be considered relevant for release.
Examples of what you can expect to find in a police check are;
- Serious offences including all sexually related offences
- Any convictions
- Pending court charges and offences
- Convictions which don’t fall under the Australian spent convictions legislation
- Traffic violations
Do Police Checks Include Spent Convictions?
Spent convictions are convictions which have been kept on record for a specified time and have met the requirements which allow for the removal of some offences.
An Australian police check will only include spent convictions if there is an exemption, otherwise these offences will be excluded from the results of disclosable court outcomes. Spent legislation also allows the right to non-disclosure.
Spent convictions are only eligible under several conditions and in accordance with state legislation. Most importantly, the offender must complete a waiting period in which they remain of good behaviour and are not involved in or charged with any other punishable offence.
The waiting period is;
- 10 consecutive years for those convicted in an adult court
- 5 consecutive years for those convicted in a juvenile court
The waiting period only begins after the completion of a prison term if sentenced. If further offences are committed during the waiting period, the period starts again from the beginning.
Often there are other pre-stipulated conditions arranged by the court which the offender must meet, such as attending counseling sessions or community service.
Do Dropped or Dismissed Charges Have to be Disclosed?
In the scenario that charges against you are dropped or dismissed for whatever purpose, the information relating to the case will not appear in the results of a police check. For this reason, you do not have to disclose the charges to any other party. The right to non-disclosure applies here.
As the dismissed offence is not present in your criminal history check, it cannot be used to discriminate against you by a potential employer or other party.
If you are unable to have the charges discontinued, there are some other ways to lessen the impact of obtaining a criminal record. The agreement to intervention and rehabilitation programs can help your case.
What Impact do Dropped or Dismissed Charges Have?
The impact of dropped and dismissed charges is not too severe. These types of charges are dismissed from a criminal record check, as no conviction is recorded by the court.
A police check will only reveal disclosable court outcomes. Where there are none, a result of no disclosable court outcomes is added.
Overall, if you have these kinds of charges they will not affect job prospects or other opportunities as they will not be disclosed should you require police clearance.
You also have the right to no disclosure, and therefore not required by law to discuss any information relating to a dropped or dismissed charge.
Can Charges be Withdrawn?
If you’re accused of a crime and you want to dispute it, there is an application process you can complete in an attempt to have the charges withdrawn.
A person can apply to have charges withdrawn under special circumstances. You can apply by writing a letter requesting a withdrawal to the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP). For instance, charges could be withdrawn if the below is proven;
- The police are found to have acted inappropriately
- The evidence filed was obtained illegally
If the application is successful, the case against you will be vacated. All charges will be dropped and the information will not be stored on your criminal record.
If the prosecuting agency does not agree with the withdrawal or agree to reduce the charges, the matter will continue as normal.
What is Non-Conviction Sentencing?
Having charges dropped or dismissed is one way of eradicating a conviction and a criminal record. However, this is only an option in specific circumstances, and is not a guaranteed solution to every case.
A non-conviction is the decision made by the court that an individual is not guilty of the offence they are charged with. The outcome is that the person does not receive a conviction record.
To receive a non-conviction sentencing, the individual must agree to certain conditions ordered by the court. The court will then make a decision as to whether to grant a non-conviction result. The conditions could include special agreements such as intervention programs.
Unlike dropped and dismissed offences, a non-conviction offence may be included in a police check. Its disclosure depends on the conditions set out by the court, as well as the purpose behind the background check. For example, the nature of the offence may be relevant to some job opportunities. Either way, a conviction record has been avoided.
The majority of the time, non-conviction sentencing will not appear in your criminal records once the conditions of the court orders are met successfully. If it is not shown in your national police check, you will not have to disclose this information to requesting parties unless where enforced by law.
Can I Find Out Which Information is Included Before Getting a Police Check?
You can apply for a police check with some idea as to what might be included in your results. However, the only way to truly know the results is to wait for the check. If you are worried about submitting the application, you can contact the relevant authorities of your state to enquire about certain convictions and whether they will appear on a background check.
Dropped or dismissed charges will not be included as they are not considered disclosable court outcomes. Generally, you can expect any convictions you have to be included unless they have reached spent status.
How Do I Get a Police Check?
Getting a police check in Australia is simple. Submit an application for a police check online with an ACIC accredited agency like Crime Check Australia. The form has been designed for convenience, and can generate a result within 1 working day if there are no complications.
If technology is not your strong point and you’d prefer to fill out manual forms, you can attend the local police station and request a police check that way. This route takes longer, but you should choose the option which is most convenient to you.
Whichever way you decide to obtain police clearance, you can rest assured that a dropped or dismissed charge will not be included. Should you wish to apply for the offences to be withdrawn, you should complete this process prior to applying for a police check. This way if the decision is granted, you can obtain a national police check once your record is updated.