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Juvenile expungement measure moves in the House

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Rep. David Smith

Rep. David Smith

Juveniles who are arrested for non-violent felonies and complete court-ordered diversion could expunge their records under a measure that is heading to the House floor.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-0 on February 1 to approve HB 195 by Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs.

“It’s a pleasure to see so many people who have already heard this bill,” Smith said. “We passed this bill unanimously last year.”

The measure would expand a law that allows juveniles who complete court ordered diversion for misdemeanor charges to expunge their records, and lawfully deny having an arrest record.

If approved, the measure would remove a substantial barrier to college admission or employment for some 26,000 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,” Smith said.

Smith sponsored a similar measure last year, HB 93, that would have allowed juveniles who complete diversion programs to expunge their records of “any felony.”

The Senate voted 39-0 to approve a companion, SB 274, on April 7, 2021. The House sent it off to the governor’s desk with 117-0 vote two weeks later.

Some lawmakers expressed a concern at the time that the measure could apply to dangerous offenders. Supporters assured them that juveniles who commit violent offenses would not be eligible for diversion programs.

In his June 29 veto message, Gov. Ron 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,” Gov. 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.”

HB 195 would exclude juveniles who are arrested on weapons charges and for “forceable felonies,” including murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, and carjacking.

The measure cleared the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee 16-0 on January 12. The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee voted 14-0 to approve it on January 25.

A Senate companion, SB 342 by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, passed the Criminal Justice Committee 9-0 on November 2. It cleared the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice 8-0 on December 1. It faces one more hearing in Appropriations.

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