DeSantis Signs Juvenile Expungement Bill

May 19, 2022 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses

After the House Judiciary Committee came to a unanimous decision in favor of HB 195, Gov. Ron DeSantis finally signed the bill into law on May 12th, 2022. The bill is titled “Juvenile Diversion Expunction” and is giving juveniles charged with a crime the opportunity to complete a court-ordered diversion program rather than going to jail and then expunging their criminal records.

Once the juveniles successfully complete the diversion program they would be able to expunge their criminal record. This is monumental for young teens who may have made a mistake in the past but are looking to brighten their future.

Before this passed in Florida, individuals had to inform their university, job, or rental companies if they had a criminal record. Now with the passing of HB 195, more opportunities would be granted to the youth, since expunging their records would mean that they won’t have anything permanently stained on their criminal record.

We will go over the basic details of the bill, what made Ron DeSantis change his mind from his opposition last year, and common statistics on the youth and recidivism.

Details of HB 195

HB 195 was passed by the House in a 117-0 vote. Under the newly signed bill, young juveniles who are eligible to complete a court-ordered diversion program will be able to expunge their criminal record. This means that when applying for a university, career, or house, these individuals will have a clean criminal record and won’t have to divulge their previous encounters with the criminal justice system.

The one stipulation in the bill is that it only includes some felony charges, excluding a “forcible felony.” A forcible felony is the use or threat of force against another individual where there is imminent danger of bodily harm. Examples of a forcible felony includes the following:

  • Treason
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual Battery
  • Carjacking
  • Home-invasion Robbery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Aggravated Stalking

David Smith, a representative from Winter Springs, Florida who sponsored the bill, believes that the approval will mean breaking historical barriers to higher education, housing, and employment for around 26,000 Florida juveniles.

Smith said, “They would have the ability to look that college recruiter in the eye, that employer, to say they have never had an arrest.”

To read more about HB 195 and its important changes, you can find our blog post here.

DeSantis’ Turnaround with Amended Version

DeSantis originally vetoed the first version of the bill—SB 274. Agreeing with the other critics, DeSantis pushed his concerns regarding the bill’s text stating that all felonies would be expunged.

In a statement from the governor, DeSantis initially stated:

“SB 274 proposed to allow the expunction of a juvenile’s non-judicial arrest record following the completion of a diversion program for any offense, including a felony. I have concerns with the unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record, may have negative impacts on public safety.”

However, now that the revised HB 195 excludes forcible felonies, DeSantis finally went through with approving and signing the bill.

Gainesville Senator Keith Perry addressed the Senate floor about the bill’s companion, SB 342: “This is a bill that we have heard for several years. This permits a juvenile to complete a diversion program for misdemeanor and felony offenses, other than forcible felonies, and have their non-judicial arrest record expunged.”

Statistics of Juvenile Recidivism

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice published its annual Comprehensive Accountability Report (CAR). The report highlights the recidivism rates for both civil citations and diversion releases. Florida reports on offending while under supervision or in placement separate from offending after service completion.

Based on the published report from 2016, there were 14,543 releases from diversion services. Out of that number, 12,578 individuals completed the diversion program, with an 86% completion rate. With that data, it showed that the recidivism, or the likelihood of reoffending, was only 13%.  

Finding a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

As a minor, getting in trouble with the law can truly seem like it’s the end of the world. Aside from fines and potential jail time, there had always been extra hurdles to jump over as a juvenile with a criminal record. However, with the newest signed bill, it shows that there are still plenty of great opportunities for young people who have previously been in trouble with the law.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented juvenile clients across the state of Florida. They understand the importance of providing quality legal advice to a minor, which you can read more about in our blog here. For a free consultation regarding your case with an experienced juvenile defense lawyer in Tallahassee, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.


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