Gov. DeSantis gets second look a juvenile expunction bill

Lawmakers passed the measure two years in a row without a single downvote.

A bill offering Florida’s non-violent juvenile offenders a “second chance” arrived Thursday on Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk.

The proposal (HB 195) would broaden a minor’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida and is considered among the more notable criminal justice reform efforts in decades.

Under the proposal, a juvenile may expunge felonies — except for forcible felonies — and multiple arrests. Forcible felonies include crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping, among others.

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

Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith sponsored the bill. The House and Senate approved the measure unanimously in the 2022 Legislative Session.

This is a “one-time, straighten-up and fly right opportunity for youthful offenders in Florida,” Smith previously explained to lawmakers.

Notably, Thursday’s delivery marks DeSantis’ second look at the proposal. Lawmakers last year praised the measure without a single downvote. 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,” the veto letter said.

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 proponents note the odds of a judge providing a diversion pathway to a violent offender are slim to none.

“Otherwise the bill’s the same as last year,” Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, the companion bill sponsor, explained in November.

More than 26,000 kids would benefit under the measure if signed into law, according to a staff analysis. Those offenders, proponents note, will enjoy better job and educational opportunities without an arrest record.

“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 said in committee.

Smith and Perry have sponsored the proposal over multiple legislative sessions. Florida Juvenile Justice Association Executive Director Christian Minor helped author the bill four years ago.

“This is a monumental piece of workforce development legislation that strikes a balance between public safety and providing kids with second chances to overcome their mistakes,” Minor said after the bill’s passage.

If signed by DeSantis, the bill will go into effect July 1.

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.

One comment

  • Harry kamalatoe

    May 6, 2022 at 9:00 am

    “The previous version did not explicitly bar the expunction of forcible felonies, though proponents note the odds of a judge providing a diversion pathway to a violent offender are slim to none.”

    Unless the presiding judge is a Soros plant like the many AGs and district judges we see letting violent criminals out time after time in places like NY and CA. Hopefully Gov. DeSantis will let this one through with the additional “forcible felonies” clause.

Comments are closed.


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