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Updated version of Sen. Keith Perry’s juvenile expunction bill signed; DeSantis vetoed the bill last year

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

CS/HB 195:Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 12 after Senator Keith Perry and other legislators made changes in response to the objections made by the governor when he vetoed the bill in 2021.

The 2021 bill, introduced in the House by Rep. David Smith and in the Senate by Perry, provided for the expunction of arrest records for minors who successfully complete a diversion program for any offense; previously, only misdemeanor offenses qualified for expunction, but the bill eliminated the language limiting it to misdemeanors. In the governor’s veto message, he wrote, “SB 274 proposes 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. 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.”

Perry’s 2022 version of the bill, filed as SB 342, changed the language to “a misdemeanor offense or for a felony offense other than a forcible felony,” with some other conditions. CS/HB 195, the House version of the bill, was substituted for Perry’s version on March 8.

That bill, which was introduced by Republican Rep. David Smith and co-introduced by a bipartisan group of 7 Republican and 19 Democratic representatives, changed the final language to allow expunction for “a misdemeanor offense or for a felony offense, other than a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08 or a felony involving the manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, possession, or use of a firearm or weapon as those terms are defined in s. 790.001;, and that the minor has not otherwise been charged by the state attorney with, or found to have committed, any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation.”

Forcible felonies as defined under the statute 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. The new law would prevent expunction of the records of any of those crimes, plus any crime involving a firearm.

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The bill provides that minors who commit crimes that qualify for expunction and successfully complete a diversion program “may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge his or her participation in the program” unless the inquiry is made by a criminal justice agency.

The bill will become law on July 1, 2022.

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