Republican Rep. David Smith is rejoining Sen. Keith Perry’s effort next Session to broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida.
Smith filed the House legislation (HB 195) Friday, marking the Republicans’ second consecutive effort to pass the bill. If successful, it would usher in the state’s most expansive criminal justice reform initiative in decades.
“These are good kids, just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Smith said of many cases. “I think the legislation is needed for the approximately 26,000 youthful offenders that could be affected by this bill in a very positive way.”
Currently, state law limits expungement to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor offense.
Under the measure, however, juvenile expunction laws would broaden to include felonies — save for forcible felonies — and arrests beyond a minor’s first offense. Forcible felonies include murder, rape and kidnapping among others.
The forcible felony exception is the most significant distinction between this year’s proposal and the measure presented by lawmakers to Gov. Ron DeSantis last Session.
DeSantis vetoed the bill in June citing public safety concerns. The move distinguished him as the sole elected official to oppose the measure in the 2021 Legislative Session.
“The unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record may have negative impacts on public safety,” DeSantis wrote in the veto letter.
Though proponents of the measure note diversion opportunities are rarely — if ever — provided in forcible felony cases, Smith said the added distinction should help ease skeptics.
“Lesson learned,” Smith added. “We were not going to let that happen. We’ve coordinated this time much more closely with the Governor’s Office.”
Smith, a decorated Marine veteran, expects the measure to be “one of the bills the Governor signs early.”
Perry shared similar optimism when speaking to Florida Politics last week.
“We’ll get it done,” Perry said.
The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11. It will mark Perry’s fourth consecutive attempt to carry the proposal to law.