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Who is able to see an expunged conviction and how that conviction can be expunged tends to rely a great deal on where the conviction has taken place. In the United States, each state has specific laws regarding not only how a criminal offense can be expunged but also who is able to see the offense afterward. These can vary somewhat widely from state to state, and an attorney familiar with and specialized in the laws of a particular state should usually be contacted for specific information. In general, however, an expunged conviction can usually be viewed by law enforcement agencies and court officials such as judges.
An expunged conviction is a criminal conviction that is effectively sealed or removed from a person’s background. This does not completely erase the conviction from a person’s record; it simply makes it disappear for most types of background checks and similar investigations into a person’s history. How this is done depends on the region in which the conviction occurred, and many regions will not allow a conviction to be expunged if it involved a sexual assault or if a person has committed similar crimes since the conviction he or she is attempting to expunge. An expunged conviction should not be visible to anyone outside of government organizations, such law enforcement agencies and courts of law.
This means someone filling out a job application does not need to indicate he or she has been convicted of a crime that has been expunged. In effect, an expunged conviction ceases to exist for a person in most contexts and he or she no longer has to recognize that it occurred. This is often done for offenses that were fairly minor or committed when a person was under the legal age of adulthood, and in situations where a person has not been arrested since the original offense. An arrest can also be expunged and removed from a person’s record, even if he or she was not convicted for the arrest.
Government agencies such as law enforcement groups and court officials can usually view sealed or expunged convictions, however, and such convictions will often be taken into account for future sentencing. If a person commits burglary, for example, and after serving his or her time has the conviction expunged, then he or she does not need to report that conviction on a job or housing application. Should that person be arrested and convicted for a future burglary, however, then the expunged conviction can be taken into consideration for both charging and sentencing; and he or she will likely face a longer sentence as a repeat offender. An expunged conviction can also be used in some regions during a criminal trial to establish prior behavior.