Governor signs juvenile expungement bill
Juveniles who complete court-ordered diversion programs will be able to expunge their criminal records, including some felonies, now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bipartisan reform measure.
DeSantis on May 12 approved HB 195, “Juvenile Diversion Expunction.”
Sponsored by Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs, the measure allows juveniles who complete diversion programs to expunge their records of “non-forcible” felonies.
Just before the House voted 117-0 to approve it, Smith predicted it would remove historic barriers to higher education, housing, and employment for some 26,000 Florida youth.
“They would have the ability to look that college recruiter in the eye, that employer, to say they have never had an arrest,” Smith said.
Smith sponsored a similar version last year, HB 93, that would have allowed juveniles who complete diversion programs to expunge their records of “any felonies.”
The measure passed both chambers, despite the concerns of some lawmakers who said it could benefit dangerous offenders. Supporters countered that juveniles who commit violent felonies would not be accepted into diversion programs.
In his veto message that year, DeSantis agreed with the critics.
“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,” DeSantis wrote. “I have concerns that the unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record, may have negative impacts on public safety.”
The latest version excludes “forcible” felonies, a definition that includes treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; and aggravated stalking, to name a few.
Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, sponsored the companion, SB 342.
“This is a bill that we have heard for several years,” Perry said on the Senate floor. “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.”