Juvenile expunction bill soars through House committee
David Smith. Image via Colin Hackley.

'This is a first, good step.'

A bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida inched one step closer Tuesday toward becoming law.

State law limits expungement opportunities to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest.

The bill (HB 195), however, would expand juvenile expunction laws to include felonies — except for forcible felonies — and arrests beyond a minor’s first offense. Forcible felonies include murder, rape and kidnapping among others.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee OK’d the bill unanimously. Republican Rep. David Smith of Winter Springs is the bill sponsor. 

“I think we’d all probably agree that justice reform in Florida is a marathon,” Smith told members. “This is a first, good step.”

Notably, this isn’t the Legislature’s first look at the measure. Lawmakers passed the proposal last year without a single down vote.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, vetoed the bill, citing public safety concerns.

“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.

The forcible felony exception is the most significant distinction between this year’s proposal and the previous bill.

Speaking to the committee, Smith noted that no lawmaker has voted down the bill in its three years of existence. Proponents, including Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg, contend the bill is among the most worthy of a lawmaker’s attention.

“You’re giving a lot of young people second chances,” Rayner told Smith.

According to a staff analysis, more than 26,000 youthful offenders would benefit under the measure. Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb of Davie is among the handful of lawmakers who highlighted the harm an arrest record can cause.

Arrests — even without a conviction — can make attending college, renting a home and finding employment a greater challenge.

“There’s a stigma anytime somebody is arrested, anytime they’re placed in the system, anytime they have to go through any of the hoops that we make them jump through,” Gottlieb said.

Smith’s proposal will appear next before the House Judiciary Committee. Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville is the companion bill sponsor (SB 342).

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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