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Drag-through explained

What happens when you receive another caution or conviction, before a previous conviction is spent?

Understanding the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) and working out when your conviction becomes spent can be difficult. In some cases, the rehabilitation period starts on the day you receive your conviction in court (for example if you’re given a fine or a conditional discharge) whilst for others, the rehabilitation period only starts once your sentence has ended (prison sentences and community orders).

But, what happens if you’ve already got a conviction when you receive another?

If your conviction is already spent, then it will remain spent and won’t be affected by any future convictions. However, if your conviction is unspent when you receive a further caution or conviction then one of the following will apply:

Receiving a police caution

If your latest outcome is a caution (either a simple a conditional caution), then the rehabilitation period of your existing unspent conviction will not be affected.

Receiving a conviction

If your latest outcome is a conviction, then both convictions will remain unspent until the one with the longest rehabilitation period is spent. This is known as ‘drag-through’.

If you receive a conviction which results in a prison sentence of more than four years, then neither your latest conviction nor your previous unspent conviction will ever become spent.

However, if your original conviction was one that could never become spent then further convictions which have a rehabilitation period can still become spent.

If you need help in working out when your conviction(s) will become spent, you can use our online disclosure calculator tool.


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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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