New FL Bill Aims to Expunge Records of Juveniles

February 6, 2022 Juvenile Offenses, Seal or Expunge Criminal Record

On February 1st, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of HB 195, a bill that would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to expunge nonjudicial arrest records of minors who successfully complete diversion programs for non-violent felony offenses. Its sister bill, SB 342, was approved unanimously in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and faces another hearing.

Important Changes Under HB 195

As it currently stands under Section 943.0582 of the Florida Statutes, only juveniles who are charged with misdemeanors are eligible for expungement after they complete a diversion program. Therefore, this bill would drastically widen the scope of the power of expungement, allowing for juveniles who commit a misdemeanor offense or felony offense, other than a forcible felony as defined under Section 776.08 of the Florida Statutes, or a felony involving the manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, possession, or use of a firearm or weapon as those terms are defined under Section 790.001 of the Florida Statutes, to have their records expunged.

The Path of HB 195

Ultimately, the bill would knock down a substantial hurdle for juveniles with a non-violent felony history, allowing them to apply to college or seek employment without having to disclose their arrest. Representative David Smith of Winter Springs sponsored the bill and spoke on its magnitude, stating, “They would have the ability to look that college recruiter in the eye, that employer, to say they have never had an arrest.” Such a bill would remove this barrier for 26,000 juveniles.

Interestingly, this isn’t Representative Smith’s first time sponsoring such a bill, as last year he sponsored HB 93 , which intended to allow juveniles who complete diversion programs to expunge records relating to any felony they were charged with. The Senate companion bill to HB 93, SB 274, received a unanimous decision for approval on April 7, 2021, but faced backlash by legislators who believed the bill would allow violent felony offenders to have their records expunged, resulting in a public safety issue. Despite supporters of the bill specifying that expungement would not be available for violent felony juvenile offenders, Governor Ron DeSantis ultimately rejected the bill. He cited “concerns that the unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record, may have negative impacts on public safety” as the root of this rejection.

Now, HB 195 makes sure to address those public safety concerns by explicitly excluding juveniles arrested for forcible felonies or weapons charges from having their records expunged.

On March 8, the Senate unanimously voted in favor of HB 195. The bill will now head to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for approval. If approved by DeSantis, HB 195 would exclude juveniles arrested on weapons charges and for forcible felonies including murder, manslaughter, carjacking, and sexual battery. Time will only tell if this measure will accomplish its goal of making the lives of juveniles, who completed diversion programs and are seeking to move on with their lives after committing non-violent felony offenses, any easier.

Tallahassee Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is imperative you contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney that will ensure that chain of custody issues will not have a negative impact on your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending Floridians against state criminal charges and will ensure all possible legal avenues are explored in your favor. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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