Florida House Representative, David Smith (R-FL-28), filed a bill (HB 195) Friday for the 2022 legislative session that aims to expand expungement rights for juveniles in the criminal justice system.
Current law allows for the expungement of criminal records for juveniles who have misdemeanor charges and have completed a diversion program. HB 195 would broaden the law to allow juveniles who commit “specified felony offenses” defined in the bill.
The bill also eliminates the stipulation that it must be a juvenile’s first offense in order for them to be able to expunge a criminal record.
“These are good kids, just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Smith in a report by Florida Politics. “I think the legislation is needed for the approximately 26,000 youthful offenders that could be affected by this bill in a very positive way.”
In the last legislative session, a similar bill was vetoed by Governor DeSantis who was concerned about letting juveniles with felony charges have the ability to expunge a felony record. “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 his veto letter.
Although the bill would expand expungement laws for juveniles to include felony charges, the bill states that forcible felonies are an exception. Forcible felonies include:
“Treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual,” as defined in Florida Statutes and cited by HB 195.
According to the Florida Politics report, Smith said the added distinction should help address concerns noted by DeSantis and others.
“We were not going to let that happen. We’ve coordinated this time much more closely with the Governor’s Office,” he added. Smith also said that he thinks that the measure will be “one of the bills the Governor signs early.”
The next legislative session will begin on January 11th, 2022, and if the bill is approved by DeSantis it will take effect on July 1st, 2022.
– – –
Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]