A bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida appeared Tuesday on the House floor.
State law limits expungement opportunities to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest.
The bill (HB 195), however, would broaden eligibility in Florida to include most felonies.
Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith is the bill sponsor. No lawmaker has voted against the bill to date, he noted.
“This is a one-time chance. … Should they ever get into trouble with the law again, that record can be uncovered and used against them,” Smith explained.
Despite bipartisan support, Smith’s effort hasn’t been easy.
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.
The forcible felony exception is the most significant distinction between this year’s proposal and the previous bill.
The bill now explicitly carves out forcible felonies, though proponents note diversion would almost never be offered to a violent offender.
Diversion programs require the recommendation of law enforcement and the approval of a state attorney. Examples of forcible felonies include murder, rape and kidnapping, among others.
According to a staff analysis, more than 26,000 kids would benefit from the proposal if signed into law.
An arrest record is often a barrier to college and workforce opportunities, Smith noted in a committee meeting earlier this month.
“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.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1. Lawmakers will vote on the bill later this week.