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Lawmakers Quietly Seal 3 Million Criminal Records

Government in the sunshine advocates are fighting a move to seal nearly 3 million criminal records.
Government in the sunshine advocates are fighting a move to seal nearly 3 million criminal records.
Government in the sunshine advocates are fighting a move to seal nearly 3 million criminal records.
Government in the sunshine advocates are fighting a move to seal nearly 3 million criminal records.

Open government advocates are urging Governor Rick Scott to veto a measure that would seal nearly three million criminal records from public view.

The bill started as a non-controversial proposal to crack down on internet publishers of police booking photos. But Sarasota Republican Greg Steube quietly added an amendment on the Senate Floor.

“This amendment addresses the concerns from FDLE and would enable the department to administratively seal the criminal record of a person found not guilty or where the charges against that person have been dismissed.”

In a letter to Scott, First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Petersen warns the move would make it difficult for school districts and day care centers to screen for predators.

Petersen says charges are often dropped when victims are too afraid to testify or prosecutors can't find a witness. Paper records would still exist, but few employers would go to the courthouse to view them,  Petersen says.

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Jim Ash is a reporter at WFSU-FM. A Miami native, he is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.