New Florida Law Greenlights Expunction for Juveniles

July 7, 2022 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses, News & Announcements

So far the long list of controversial bills signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis this past week has been received with frustration and anger. The new state policies on legal abortions and the “Don’t Say Gay” law have all been the main sources of topic, however, there are additional bills that should be addressed, for how they will affect criminal charges in the state.

The proposed HB 195 was signed on Thursday, with its focus on giving minors the ability to expunge their criminal charges and instead focus on the possibility of their future with a completely clean record. The bill was originally vetoed by DeSantis last year, fearing that it would cause issues for public safety.

However, the Governor has clearly changed his mind, along with the Florida Senate and House approving the Legislature in a unanimous vote. Although the concern remains for the safety of the general public, Florida is backing their choice with multiple studies that highlight how adolescents’ brains are not yet fully developed.

As HB 195 is set to go into effect as of July 1st, 2022, it is important to cover the details of the law and how it will affect minors with criminal charges in Florida. We will also cover the exception to the law, along with various responses.

HB 195

The new HB 195 law is called the Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction. The text defines the law to “require the FDLE to expunge nonjudicial arrest records of minors who successfully complete diversion programs for specified felony offenses, rather than only for misdemeanor offenses.”

When HB 195 sponsor David Smith originally addressed the bill last year, it was praised by lawmakers and did not receive any “no” votes. However, DeSantis’ concern for public safety was the main reason for his veto.

“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.

Christian Minor, the Executive Director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, initially proposed the legislation four years ago. Minor explained that the bill was first written after being confronted by a minor who had lost their scholarship as a college athlete and was unable to find a job due to the fact that he had a felony charge on his record. After turning 21 and the arrest was dropped from his criminal record, the individual was able to go to university and get a job.

Minor argued that HB 195 is not just a criminal justice bill, but also a workforce development bill. “It goes to show, if we are eliminating those barriers earlier on in a kid’s life, we can completely change the trajectory of them moving forward,” Minor said.

In addition to HB 195, DeSantis also signed the accompanying bill HB 197. The accompanying law is set to create an exemption of public records requirements for a nonjudicial record of the arrest of a minor who successfully completed a diversion program.

“When it comes to a 16 or 17-year-old who is deciding what path he wants to go on in his life, whether he wants to go to college, whether he wants to go straight to the workforce or serve in the military, or even in the law enforcement when it comes to trying to procure housing or student loans, he’s not going to have an arrest holding him back,” Minor said of the new laws.

Under the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, a diversion program is an alternative to the formal juvenile justice system for those charged with a crime. The goal of a diversion program is to reduce the amount of juvenile crime, while providing a second chance for the adolescent to rebuild their future.

To read all about the different types of diversion programs offered in Florida, find our informative page here.

Exceptions – What is a Forcible Felony?

Under HB 195’s proposal, a juvenile can get their record expunged for a criminal charge. However, there are exceptions to the law. The previous legislation allowed for expungement only for minors who had completed a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor charge.

With the newest amendment, felony arrests can also be expunged for minors. The only stipulation is that it cannot be considered a forcible felony charge. A forcible felony is defined under Florida Statute Section 776.08 as the following criminal charges:

Statistics on Minors and Criminal Charges in Florida

HB 195 is projected to benefit over 26,000 juveniles, according to the staff analysis. It is likely that with the help of the new measures, the minors who were convicted of a criminal offense will now have a higher probability of finding a job and seeking out education opportunities.

A study from 2019 claims that on any given day there are around 48,000 teens in the United States that are placed in juvenile detention centers. Most of the time the adolescents are held in restrictive, correctional-style facilities. Juvenile diversion programs are a way to get troubled teens the help they need before entering back into society.

Florida’s example of diversion programs shows the alternative for teens, which include family-based counseling, treatment for substance abuse, community service, restitution, etc. From 2018-2019, there were around 10,000 of teens in Florida that were eligible to avoid formal prosecution through pre-arrest diversion programs.

According to the 2018 Comprehensive Accountability Report from the Department of Juvenile Justice, a total of 14,010 youth served time for criminal charges in a secured detention center. There was 9,662 youth that served through home detention, and 3,381 that served through electronic monitoring during the 2017-2018 year.

Responses to HB 195

So far HB 195 has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Delvin Davis, the regional policy criminal justice reform analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, gave a statement claiming that the bill is just common sense:

“It serves no purpose to have children go into adulthood with a criminal record. Numerous studies have shown that a child’s brain is still developing throughout their mid-20s. They can learn and grown and become rehabilitated.”

Minor gave a final comment on the new law:

“Ultimately, when kids have an arrest like this holding them back, what happens when they lose hope, and they’re trying to get jobs, and they’ll go ‘Well, I did everything right, I was told I had a second chance, but I’ve got an arrest holding me back?’ Oftentimes that can lead back to a life of crime.”

In a tweet posted by St. Pete Senator Jeff Brandes, he called HB 195 getting passed “a long journey but the right one.”

Over the last four years, juvenile diversion has been a top priority for the Florida Juvenile Justice Association. Now with the measure getting passed into law, the next item on the list could focus on eliminating juvenile fees. This could also be a stepping stone into trials for expanding expunctions for adults as well.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Although criminal charges for minors can have less severe punishments than being tried as an adult, it is still extremely important for teens to have a quality criminal defense if they have been accused of a crime. HB 195 is on the right track to help adolescents get on the right track and start building a new future. However, with the help of a skilled defense attorney, you can work on stopping your criminal case before it leads to a guilty conviction. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state of Florida, varying in ages and charges. We understand that as a minor, it can be extremely scary to get arrested for a crime. Our team promises to help you throughout the legal process and fight for your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

 Written by Karissa Key

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