Last week Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed SB 274, a bill that requires “the Department of Law Enforcement to expunge the nonjudicial arrest record of certain minors who have successfully completed a diversion program for any offense, rather than only a misdemeanor offense; authorizing a minor who successfully completes a diversion program for any offense, rather than only for a first-time misdemeanor offense, to lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge certain information, etc.”
Unanimously passing by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, the bill allows a juvenile who completed a “diversion program” for any offense, including serious violent crimes, to have their arrest record wiped clean. It also does not contain any exceptions for repeat violent offenders.
Under current Florida law, people convicted of first-time misdemeanors are already eligible to apply for expungement.
The vote passed with no opposition, with the Senate voting 39 yes, 0 no, and 1 absence. The House brought similarly unanimous results, with 117 yes, 0 no, and 3 lawmakers absent.
“Anybody that sits back and tells you that we’re a model in the state of Florida – we’re a failure in the state of Florida, just like every other state that embarks on this measure,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood, representing Florida’s Volusia County. “We’re not saying we don’t believe in a holistic approach to juvenile crime. Absolutely, positively. But when you got somebody who wants to do big-boy crimes or big-girl crimes, then treat them accordingly. Don’t try to mollycoddle them and pat them on the head and say if we hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ we’re gonna change your behavior. It’s not going to happen. They laugh at us.” DeSantis explained why he went against his own party’s passed bill, focusing on the safety of Florida’s citizens.
“I have concerns that an unfettered [law] to expunge serious felonies, including sexual battery, from a juvenile’s record may have negative impacts on public safety,” DeSantis said in his veto letter.
DeSantis has been known to stand tough on crime in the past, signing an ‘anti-riot’ bill into law this past April, which was passed by a much more divided Florida legislature of 23-17.