Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Please help correct this wrong and demand that Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls place SB 274 Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction on the legislative schedule in September for a veto override.
Their contact information can be found below.
SB 274 Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction was one of the bright spots in a miserable 2021 FL Legislative Session. This Republican-sponsored juvenile justice reform bill was years in the making, but in 2021 it finally passed unanimously in all committees and floor votes of both chambers. The bill would allow juveniles who successfully completed diversion programs their second-chance opportunities for success in life by expunging their records from public scrutiny (e.g., when applying for schools, the military, housing, jobs, loans and other programs). Unfortunately, Gov. DeSantis vetoed SB 274 on June 29 out of concern for "public safety". This can only be explained as misinterpretation or misstatement of the facts, and it is why this bill is the prototype example of one that should go back for a veto override in the next Legislative Session. Here are some background talking points regarding this bill:
Diversion programs do exactly what they describe--i.e., they "divert" juveniles from entering the juvenile justice system through the legal process and place them on a track that is less restrictive and include more opportunities for rehabilitation and restoration. In other words, they maximize their chances for success later in life and reduce their chances of recidivism.
A diversion program is not even an option for juveniles who commit felonies of the second degree or higher, any type of violent crime, aggravated assault, robbery, attempted residential burglary, and other serious crimes.
The decision to refer a juvenile to a diversion program is at the discretion of either the law enforcement officer who confronted the juvenile at the time of the incident or the state attorney who referred the case.
After completing an eligible diversion program, a juvenile currently can only seek to have his or her nonjudicial arrest record expunged if the arrest was for a misdemeanor, appropriate documentation has been submitted, and the case meets other defined criteria.
Without expungement after successfully completing diversion programs, juvenile records are not confidential and not exempt from public disclosure.
An illustrative example of the problem is one using theft as the crime. If one child steals an Android cell phone worth $299 or less and completes a juvenile diversion program, that child is eligible to apply for record expunction because it is a petty theft misdemeanor. But a child who steals an Apple iPhone worth $300 or more and successfully completes a diversion program is not eligible to apply for expunction because it is grand theft and a third degree felony.
Here is the kicker -- SB 274 does not change the strict eligibility criteria needed to qualify for a juvenile diversion program. Juveniles will continue to be barred from diversion programs for committing serious and violent crimes; therefore, they will never be eligible for record expunction. There is no impact on community safety. The Republican and Democratic legislators all understood this difference when they passed the bill. That is why they passed it! And it is why they were shocked when the Governor vetoed the bill for reasons of "public safety". Please help correct this wrong and demand that Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls place SB 274 Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction on the legislative schedule in September for a veto override. Their contact information can be found below: Senate President Wilton Simpson -- firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 487-5010 Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls--Chris.Sprowls@myfloridahouse.gov or (850) 717-5065 Thank you,