Initiative to Clear Criminal Records Wins $75M Grant

May 3, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Amendment 4 advocate Sheena Meade, along with a multi-state coalition, was awarded a $75 million grant to help advance policies to wipe the criminal records of eligible persons who have completed their sentence.

Meade’s husband helped organize the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which organized Amendment 4 and its passing. Two years later, Sheena Meade joined the Clean Slate Initiative.

“Amendment 4 really gave me a blueprint on how to scale our initiative nationally,” Meade said. “We think of implementation the moment we start writing legislation…We’re working with partners at the front end, who are already in the state and then we try to help and build infrastructure and build power to localize around the issue.”

The grant was provided by the Audacious Project, a funding initiative from TED of TED Talks. With the awarded $75 million, Meade says it will help the initiative expand its staff and work in other states.

This page will provide information on Amendment 4, Florida’s 2018 bill to allow certain convicted persons to vote, the State’s newly proposed bill, and how it may be able to assist in Florida’s current labor shortage.

What is Amendment 4?

In November 2018, Florida voters opted in favor of Amendment 4, which allows convicted felons the right to vote. If the convicted felon paid restitution and completed their sentence, parole, or probation time, they may be eligible to vote under Amendment 4 of Art VI of Florida’s State Constitution.

After the bill passed, it opened the possibility for at least 1.4 million residents to participate in the election process. Prior to the bill’s passing, the only way a convicted felon could vote was by going through the state’s clemency system.

Rick Scott, the Governor at the time, had previously changed the process in 2011 to require residents to wait five to seven years to apply. The average convicted person waited as much as ten years for an application response, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Under Florida Statute Section 98.0751, the standards for eligibility to vote after a felony conviction include:

  • A felony conviction for murder or a sex crime is ineligible to vote in Florida unless they have their rights restored under the State Clemency Board;
    • While an attorney is not required during the clemency process, you or a loved one can be represented by an attorney to help ensure your rights are protected and restored.
  • A felony conviction for any other offense aside from murder or a sex crime is eligible to register and vote under Amendment 4, given the convicted person has completed all aspects of his or her sentence. This includes:
    • Jail or prison sentencing;
    • Probation, parole, or any other forms of supervision; and
    • Total payment for all fines, fees, costs, and restitution ordered as part of the felony sentence.

HB 7125

In 2019, Florida Legislature passed a law that required the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to seal criminal records for charges that were either dismissed or not filed, or if the defendant was found not guilty or acquitted of the offense.

HB 7125 covers Florida Statute Section 943.0584 for the Criminal history records ineligible for court-ordered expunction or court-ordered sealing. The bill text states that a criminal history record is ineligible for expunction for any of the following offenses:

  • Sexual misconduct;
  • Illegal Use of Explosives;
  • Terrorism;
  • Murder;
  • Manslaughter or Homicide;
  • Assault or Battery;
  • Aggravated Assault;
  • Felony Battery;
  • Stalking or Aggravated Stalking;
  • Luring or Enticing a Child;
  • Human Trafficking;
  • Kidnapping or False Imprisonment; or
  • Any other offense that is listed here.

Prior to a convicted felon seeking to expunge their criminal history, they must first apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a certificate of eligibility for expunction. FDLE will then issue a certificate of eligibility to a convicted person if he or she:

  • Satisfies the eligibility criteria under sections (1) (a)-(h) under Florida Statute Section 943.0584;
  • Submitted a written certified statement from the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor which confirms the criminal history record complies with the criteria in paragraph (1) (a)-(c);
  • Submitted a certified copy of the disposition of the charge to which the petition to expunge pertains; and
  • Pay a $75 processing fee to FDLE Operating Trust Fund, unless the fee is waived.

Those in favor of the bill felt it didn’t go far enough, since it only applies to the FDLE and not the local county court systems where the records for non-convicted criminal history records are held.

Proposed Bill to Automatically Seal Local Records

Now Florida lawmakers are looking to pass a new “jobs bill” which would automatically seal criminal records at the local level.

HB 593 shall require that all counts of indictment, information, or charging document be dismissed or that a not-guilty verdict or acquittal be entered on all counts to be eligible for automatic sealing.

Under the proposed bill, the department shall seal a criminal history record if:

  1. An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record;
  2. An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed in the case giving rise to the criminal history record, but was dismissed or nolle prosequi (no wish to prosecute) by the state attorney or prosecutor, or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction as to all counts;
  3. A not guilty verdict was rendered by a judge or jury as to all counts. However, the person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the defendant was not found guilty by reason of insanity;
  4. A judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge as to all counts.

If HB 593 passes, it shall go into effect on July 1st, 2023.

Florida’s Labor Shortage

According to a report by Alliance for Safety and Justice, the state of Florida loses an estimated $40 billion each year from keeping convicted persons out of the workforce. The organization claims there are around six million Florida citizens who have an arrest record.

These individuals can face nearly 800 regulations and restrictions when it comes to employment and licensing. This is despite the State’s desperate need for over 150,000 workers.

The current policies which impact Florida’s workforce include:

  • Around 788 regulations are in place which make it harder for convicted persons to find meaningful employment;
  • Such regulations are not tied to any reasonable public safety concerns;
  • Individuals with criminal convictions on their record reduce the hiring callbacks severely. It is reduced by half for white job applicants, and by nearly two-thirds for Black applicants.

The following is a statement by Subhash Kateel, the Florida State Director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice:

“The priority of our criminal justice system should be to keep our communities safe and improve outcomes for those who have served their time. The barriers that people with old records face when they’re reentering society do nothing to keep us safer or to end cycles of crime. Together, we can adopt proven solutions that bolster our local workforce and set people on a path toward redemption. We have the tools to strengthen communities and empower those who are looking to work.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, make sure you reach out to a defense attorney to discuss your options. We understand that getting arrested is both scary and stressful. By working with a skilled defense attorney, you can ensure that you have a knowledgeable professional on your side who can answer any questions or concerns you have regarding the legal procedures. In addition, you can rest assured that an attorney is prepared to fight vigorously for you and your case.

Don Pumphrey and the team at Pumphrey Law Firm have worked with Florida citizens for years, building defenses to dismiss or lessen a defendant’s charges. Contact our office today and receive a completely free consultation regarding your case. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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