A bill expunging the criminal records of certain minors when they become an adult has passed the full Florida Senate.
Sen. Nancy Detert’s (R-Venice) bill requires that certain juvenile offenders can apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to have their record automatically expunged when the minor reaches the age of 21. Originally, depending on the minor, the age was 24 or 26. But, she says there are some exceptions.
“The automatic expunction does not apply if the minor is classified as a serious or habitual juvenile offender, or if the minor has been committed to a juvenile correctional facility or prison,” said Detert.
After working with her House sponsor, Detert says her bill just recently went through another change.
“Some improvements were made to clarify that a person who was denied early expungement is still eligible to have their record expunged at the age of 21 if they meet the eligibility requirements,” she added.
Using her son as an example, Detert says this issue is personal to her.
“When he was five, he and the neighbor kids made a bike ramp out of three sheets of drywall,” recalled the Senator. “They got arrested, fingerprinted, booked, had his picture with a little, practically had a number under it, and had to go to rehabilitation. I had just moved to this state, like three weeks before. I was pretty shocked that this was the system. They’re five-years-old. So, then, when he went to get a job when he was an adult, they said, ‘well, do you realize that you have a police record?’ Then, he said, ‘does it say on there that I was five?’”
Overall, Detert says these kids deserve a second chance.
“So, these kind of you know, toilet papering, breaking a sheet of drywall, all minor things. They deserve to be expunged on your 21st birthday, if you’re a normal kid, who happened to be a bit of a prankster. Kind of labeled this the ‘Help the Moms of America,’” she stated, to laughter.
As a mother herself, Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) says she likes the bill.
“Thank you very much, Senator Detert, and thank you for bringing this issue to our attention,” said Flores, during the bill's last committee hearing. “As a mother of a seven-year-old and a four-year-old boy, not that I anticipate there will be similar issues, but you never know.”
Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando), who co-sponsored the measure, is also a supporter.
“In this modern era, we see arrests and convictions follow youth for years and a lot of them don’t have the money to pay an attorney to expunge the records quicker or also address it with future employers,” he said, during Thursday's floor session debate. “So, we’ve got to keep up with the times, and I really appreciate your work on this Senator Detert.”
And, the Florida Senate unanimously passed the bill. Meanwhile, its House companion by Sen. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) is already headed to the floor.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.