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Florida Senate panel signs off on proposal to expunge juvenile records

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A proposal that would allow juveniles who have completed diversion programs to have nonjudicial arrest records expunged for any offense except a forcible felony is moving swiftly through the Senate.

Currently, minors who have gone through a diversion program only can be granted a records expungement for misdemeanor offenses. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (SB 342) to expand the clearing of the records. The bill faces one more committee before heading to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a similar proposal passed by state lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session this spring. The revamped version of the bill, intended for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 11, includes a tweak aimed at garnering the governor’s support, according to bill sponsor Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

“The caveat is we’ve added in that forcible felonies are not allowed in this, and that is the difference between this bill and last year’s bill,” Perry, chairman of the subcommittee, told the panel Wednesday.

Perry said he is confident that lawmakers will approve the measure and that DeSantis will support it because the revised bill addresses the governor’s objections.

“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,” DeSantis wrote in a June veto message.

The committee on Wednesday also approved an accompanying measure (SB 344) that would provide a public-records exemption for juveniles whose records have been expunged. Similar bills (HB 195, HB 197) have been filed in the House.