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Governor Ron DeSantis’ stance on critical race theory, his “don’t say gay” law and tough anti-abortion policy have angered millions of Americans. Nonetheless, a new Florida bill he signed into law allows young people to enter adulthood with clean criminal records.
Notably, although the original legislation was drafted by a member of the Florida Republican Party, Governor DeSantis vetoed the measure last year, citing public safety concerns.
However, the Florida Senate and House approved the legislation unanimously last year and this year without any votes.
Governor DeSantis finally received the memo and signed the bill into law yesterday.
Effective July 1, 2022, the new law will allow children to enter adulthood without the stain of a criminal record. It passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.
Delvin Davis, regional policy analyst for criminal justice reform at the SPLC Action Fund, said: “Under this legislation, children can have their records expunged if prosecutors choose to place them in a diversion program at the place of the criminal justice system.” He added, “This is common sense legislation that we are grateful to the House and Senate for passing unanimously and Governor DeSantis signing into law.”
Numerous studies have shown that a young person’s brain is still developing in their mid-twenties, which means it can learn, grow and readapt.
Florida law passes
Specifically, House Bill 195 requires the deletion of non-judicial arrest records of minors who successfully complete diversion programs for specified criminal offenses rather than just misdemeanors.
Teens who successfully complete the diversion program can be cleared of any covered offence, even if they deny or acknowledge certain information.
Christian Minor is the executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association and has lobbied for youth criminal justice reform and common sense legislation for four years. He helped draft the original bill turned Florida law that would help young people start adulthood with clean criminal records.
“When we first created and wrote the language for this bill, we were actually dealing with a young African-American, who had gone through a diversion program after his arrest, successfully completed it – and it was for a very low level criminal offence. — he took an iPhone, and the prosecution followed him, until he was 21,” Minor said in support of the Florida law.
“He lost a college scholarship and then he was struggling to find jobs and jobs. Our big concern was, what happens when these children lose hope? What path does this take them? Are they going back to a life of crime? said Miner.
Also, taking effect on the same date as HB 195, HB 197 specifically provides an exemption from public records requirements for a non-judicial record of the arrest of a minor who has successfully completed a diversion program. It also provides for retroactive application, future legislative review, repeal of an exemption and a declaration of public necessity.
“When it comes to a 16- or 17-year-old deciding what path he wants to take in his life, whether he wants to go to college, whether he wants to go straight into the job market or serve in the military, or even law enforcement when it comes to trying to get housing or student loans, he won’t be stopped by arrest,” the minor said in reference to the Florida’s new law.