The Senate Appropriations Committee gave a thumbs-up Wednesday to a bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida.
Currently, state law limits expungement to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest. The bill (SB 342), however, would expand juvenile expunction opportunities.
Under the proposal, a minor may expunge felonies — except for forcible felonies — and multiple arrests. Forcible felonies include crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping, among others.
The panel-level passage marks the bill’s third consecutive committee stop without a down vote. Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry is the bill sponsor.
According to a staff analysis, more than 26,000 youthful offenders would benefit under the bill. Those offenders, proponents note, will access more advancement opportunities without an arrest record.
Arrests — even without a conviction — can make attending college, renting a home and finding employment challenging. The bill will empower youth to erase an arrest after completing a diversion program.
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. The previous version did not explicitly bar the expunction of forcible felonies, though the odds of a judge providing a diversion pathway to a violent offender are slim to none.
Ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session, Perry vowed “we’ll get it done” when asked about his forecast on the bill.
Perry’s proposal now awaits the Senate’s full consideration. Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith is the companion sponsor (HB 195). That measure also awaits a floor hearing.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.