After Gov. DeSantis’ veto, juvenile expungement bill clears first legislative hurdle

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A top Senator is urging the Governor to sign the bill this time.

A Senate panel gave the first approval to an altered juvenile arrest expungement proposal after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a similar version that passed unanimously this past spring.

Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry is once again carrying the bill (SB 342) that would expand opportunities to expunge first-time arrests from juvenile records to felony charges. But this time Perry and the Representative carrying the House counterpart (HB 195), Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith, removed forcible felonies from the list after DeSantis’ concerns.

“Otherwise the bill’s the same as last year,” Perry told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday.

Florida currently allows minors to expunge first-time misdemeanors if they complete a diversion program. The bill would expand juvenile expunction laws to include most felonies and other arrests beyond the first offense.

In January, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement estimated roughly 27,000 minors could qualify for expunction under the measure.

Perry has pledged to get the measure across the Governor’s desk and into law.

The proposal passed the entire legislative and committee process unanimously during the 2021 Session before receiving DeSantis’ veto after the Florida Police Chiefs Association raised concerns about the bill’s extent.

“I have concerns that the unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record may have negative impacts on public safety,” he wrote in his veto letter.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, the Miami Democrat who chairs the committee, took a jab at the Republican Governor before putting the measure for a vote.

“I think we’re all going to unanimously vote for this again this year and urge another branch to sign it,” Pizzo said.

As it did last Session, the measure passed his panel unanimously.

The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11. It is Perry’s fourth consecutive attempt to carry the proposal to law.

The bill and an accompanying public records bill (SB 344) next head to the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, their second of three committee stops. The House measure and its counterpart (HB 197) await hearings in their first of three committee stops, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee.

Christian Minor, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, helped write the bill four years ago and has been pushing for it since. He told Florida Politics he thinks DeSantis will be satisfied this time, adding that he appreciated the Florida Police Chiefs Association for indicating their support for the bill this time.

“I think it shows a huge change in the train of thought regarding it,” Minor said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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