A Proposed Amendment to the Expungement of Juvenile Criminal Records

January 8, 2015

The expungement of juvenile criminal records may soon become easier in Florida. State representative Mia Jones has introduced a new bill, HB 205, to the Florida House of Representatives to amend the state’s juvenile criminal record laws.

What Is Expungement?

In Florida, the public has the right to access a person’s criminal record. Criminal records include not only convictions, but also arrests, even if charges were dismissed. Having a criminal record can make it much more difficult to find a job, get housing, join the military, or proceed with your life in many other ways. You can ask the court to restrict access to your criminal record by requesting an expungement or a sealing of your record. Sealing a record means that access to the record is placed under very tight restrictions. Only a few entities, including the Florida Bar, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Board of Education, and law enforcement, can see the record.

Expungement is a process by which criminal records are removed from the public record. Under the current law, a juvenile who is “classified as a serious or habitual juvenile offender” or who has spent time in a juvenile prison or correctional facility must wait for five years after he or she turns 21 for a juvenile criminal record to be expunged. (If the minor does not fall into this category, he or she must wait for five years after turning 19.) However, a person with a juvenile record cannot receive an expungement in two circumstances: (1) if, after turning 18 but before receiving an expungement, he or she commits a forcible felony (a serious crime such as burglary, sexual assault, or murder), or (2) if the minor is adjudicated as an adult for a forcible felony.

What Would the Amendment Do?

The proposed amendment would reduce the time period that juveniles must wait to have their records expunged. Under the amendment, a juvenile’s record would be retained until the juvenile reached the age of 18. At that point, the record would be expunged unless the juvenile fell into one of the two categories that currently prevent a juvenile from receiving an expungement (that is, commission of a serious felony or being adjudicated as an adult).

Before the introduction of the bill, Florida was frequently included in lists of the worst states for the protection of the privacy of minors with juvenile criminal histories. For example, the Juvenile Law Center released a study in which it ranked Florida 32nd in juvenile record protection for its failure to keep private the sensitive and damaging information contained in juvenile court records.

If you have a juvenile criminal record, it is important to your privacy and to your success both professionally and educationally that it be expunged, if possible. If you have a juvenile record to be expunged or if you have questions about how this new amendment, if passed, would affect your juvenile record, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.