Background Check Glossary


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Background Check Glossary

The background check industry is filled with technical terms that may appear on criminal searches within a background check for tenant screening.  In order to help our customers understand phrases that may be confusing on a tenant screening report, we have compiled a glossary of legal terms designed to make reading and understanding a report from Applycheck as easy as possible.

Acquittal. The legal and formal certification of the innocence of a person who

has been charged with crime; a deliverance or setting free a person from a

charge of guilt; finding of not guilty.

Arraignment. Procedure whereby the accused is brought before the court to

plead to the criminal charge against him in the indictment or information.

Capias. The general name for several species of writs, common characteristic

of which is that they require the officer to take a named defendant into custody.

Conviction. The result of a criminal trial which ends in a judgment or sentence

that the accused is guilty as charged.

Criminal complaint. In criminal law, a charge, preferred before a magistrate

having jurisdiction, that a person named, has committed a specific offense, with

an offer to prove the fact, to the end that a prosecution may be instituted.

Criminal plea. The defendant’s response to a criminal charge (guilty, not guilty,

or nolo contendere).

Defendant. The party against whom relief or recovery is sought or the accused

in a criminal case.

Discovery. The pre-trial devices that can be used by one party to obtain facts

and information about the case from the other party in order to assist the party’s

preparation for trial.

Dismissal. An order of judgment finally disposing of an action, suit, motion,

etc., without trial of the issues involved.

Dismissal without prejudice. Term meaning dismissal without prejudice to the

right of the complainant to sue again on the same cause of action.

Dismissal with prejudice. Term meaning an adjudication on the merits, and

final disposition, barring the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim

or cause.

Evidence. Any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the

trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses,

records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, for the purpose of inducing belief

in the minds of the court or jury as to their contention.

Expungement of record. Process by which record of criminal conviction is

destroyed or sealed after expiration of time.

Felony. A crime of a graver or more serious nature than those designated as


Grading of crime. Higher or lower in grade or degree, according to the

measure of punishment attached and meted out on conviction and the

consequences resulting to the party convicted, for example first, second, or third

degree murder.

Grand jury. Body of citizens, the number of whom varied from state to state,

whose duties consist in determining whether probable cause exists that a crime

has been committed and whether an indictment should be returned against one

for such a crime.

Indictment. A formal written accusation originating with a prosecutor and

issued by a grand jury against a party charged with a crime. An indictment is

referred to as a “true bill”, whereas failure to indict is called a “no bill”.

Information. An accusation exhibited against a person for some criminal

offense, without an indictment. A written accusation made by a public prosecutor,

without the intervention of a grand jury.

Judgment of conviction. A judgment conviction shall set forth the plea, the

verdict or findings, and the adjudication and sentence.

Magistrate. An inferior judicial officer, such as a justice of the peace.

Misdemeanor. Offenses lower than felonies and generally those punishable by

fine, penalty, forfeiture or imprisonment otherwise than in penitentiary.

Nolle prosequi. A formal entry upon the record by the prosecuting attorney in a

criminal action, by which he declares that he will no further prosecute the case,

either as to some of the defendants or altogether.

Nolo contendere. A plea in a criminal case which has similar legal effect as

pleading guilty. Type of plea which may be entered with leave of court to a

criminal complaint or indictment by which the defendant does not admit or deny

the charges

Parole. Release from jail, prison, or other confinement after actually serving

part of sentence. Conditional release from imprisonment which entitles parolee to

serve remainder of term outside confines of an institution.

Plaintiff. A person who brings an action. A person who seeks remedial relief for

an injury of rights; it designates a complainant.

Prosecute. To proceed against a person criminally.

Quash. To vacate or make void as in to quash an indictment.

Summons. In criminal law, a written order notifying an individual that he or she

has been charged with an offense directing the person to appear in court to

answer the charge.

Suspended sentence. In criminal law, a suspended sentence means in effect

that the defendant is not required at the time sentence is imposed to serve the


Warrant for arrest. A written order of the court which is made on behalf of the

state or United States and is based upon a complaint issued pursuant to statute

and/or court rule and which commands law enforcement to arrest a person and

bring them before court.