The Phoenix Flyer

Lawmakers try again to get certain juvenile arrest records expunged; ‘children should be given a chance at redemption’

By: - September 27, 2021 6:03 pm

Monroe Juvenile Detention Center. Credit: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice website.

In late June, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed two 2021 bills related to expunging juvenile arrest records, causing concern from advocates who considered the legislation a major juvenile justice reform.

The bills would have allowed certain juveniles to get arrest records expunged for misdemeanors or some felony offenses if they completed a diversion program. DeSantis vetoed both bills, SB 274 and SB 166, concerned “that the unfettered ability to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record may have negative impacts on public safety.”

Now, lawmakers are trying again to get the legislation passed in the 2022 session that starts in January.

New legislation for 2022 would make clear that juvenile arrest records could be expunged for misdemeanor offenses and felonies — but not all felonies. The bills would exclude a “forcible felony,” such as murder or sexual battery.

The new bills filed about the issue were listed as HB 195 and 197, and SB 342 and 344.

“At the Governor’s request, the 2022 legislation will prohibit juveniles convicted of various sexual batteries from obtaining diversion and expunction, and the bill goes a step further to also include murder and attempted murder as offenses exempt from diversion or expunction,” according to the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) Action Fund, which has been following the issue.

Carrie Boyd, Policy Director for the SPLC Action Fund said in a statement:

“This bill has bipartisan support because even in this polarized time, we can agree that children should be given a chance at redemption. The bill passed the Senate and House unanimously last session, and while the governor vetoed it, we’re grateful for the feedback he gave us that will allow us to pass an even better bill in 2022. This is also the most pro-workforce bill we have seen in a generation as an estimated 27,000 children each year will now enter adulthood without the anchor of a criminal conviction that would prohibit them from obtaining job opportunities, joining the military, securing a house or apartment, obtaining student loans, and more.”

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.