A bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida cleared its final committee stop Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee OK’d the bill unanimously without questions or debate, ranking it among the few proposals to pass through the committee process without a single down vote. Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith is the bill sponsor.
Under current law, expungement opportunities are limited to minors who complete a diversion program solely 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.
Smith said the proposal would improve the lives of 26,000 kids if signed into law by removing hurdles into college, the military and sustainable housing.
“They would be able to look that college recruiter, that military recruiter in the eye, or that employer, and say that they have never been arrested for a crime,” Smith told lawmakers.
Tuesday’s committee-level passage marks the latest milestone in Smith’s years-long effort to pass the bill. He and Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, the companion sponsor (SB 342), nearly enshrined the measure into law last year.
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.
Moving forward, the sponsors are more optimistic of their odds with the Republican Governor. The forcible felony exception is the most significant distinction between this year’s proposal and the previous bill.
“We’ll get it done,” Perry told Florida Politics ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session.
The bill now awaits the House’s full consideration. If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.