Without questions or debate, the Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record.
Currently, Florida allows minors to expunge first-time misdemeanors if they complete a diversion program.
The Senate proposal (SB 274), however, would expand juvenile expunction laws to include felonies and other arrests beyond a minor’s first offense.
Moreover, a juvenile who completes a diversion program may omit or deny the expunction as well as their participation in a diversion program.
The bill’s passage marks a triumph for Republican Sen. Keith Perry, who has carried the legislation for three consecutive sessions.The proposal struggled to gain traction in 2019. And in 2020, the bill died in the Session’s final week.
The bill now awaits the House’s consideration.
In January, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement estimated more than 26,900 minors — totaling more than 64,343 felony charges — may qualify for juvenile diversion expunction.
“Whether it is a pre-arrest or post-arrest diversion program, the goal of the program is to maximize the opportunity for success and minimize the likelihood of recidivism,” a staff analysis explains.
In a staff analysis, FDLE estimated they will need at least two additional employees and some programming renovations to manage the increase.
Without the extra hands and digital accommodations, FDLE warned, wait times may “significantly increase” to greater than the current 12-week average expunction process time.
The Senate’s budget proposal (SB 2500) includes $148,971 and two full time employees to meet the fiscal impact.
“The FDLE estimates that approximately 10% of eligible persons will apply for a juvenile diversion expunction, resulting in an additional 2,690 new applications for processing, a 20% workload increase,” the staff analysis says.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.
A companion House bill (HB 93), meanwhile, is onto second reading.
Republican Rep. David Smith of Winter Springs is the House bill sponsor.