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A Minor Mark Not So Minor: Changes to Juvenile Expunction Law

A recent bill was introduced in Florida’s legislature to attack the negative effects that a juvenile record may have on persons who committed nonviolent offenses as minors, but are now, as adults, attempting to apply to jobs, join the military, or receive loans for college tuition and other essentials. In Florida, the police records generally contain information such as arrests, victim/witness statements, biometric information and photographs. This information, depending on the state, may not be limited by confidentiality restrictions, could be bought and sold by data record companies for profit, and could keep the person from applying for a job or getting a loan.

Florida’s Expunction and Sealment Laws

Florida, according to a report published by the Juvenile Law Center, is one of the states with the worst scorecard regarding the protection of juvenile records. The Juvenile Law Center created the report based on the following for the utmost protection of juvenile records:

  • The availability of the records to the public;
  • Whether the records were automatically sealed/expunged or if there person has to go through a process;
  • The extent of expungement, if that means physical destruction and/or electronic deletion;
  • The offenses to which expungement may apply;
  • The administration of expungement and the applicability of fees; and
  • The use of sanctions for violations of the records practice, among many others.

The Current Expunction Statute vs. The Proposed Bill

The current statute provides that a person who spent time in a correctional facility must wait five years after they turn 21 before the record can be automatically expunged. The new bill would permit that juveniles who committed non-violent offenses (which is 95% of the crimes usually committed by juveniles), would have their record expunged two years after the minor reaches 19 years of age. This could have the effect of getting now-adult persons the opportunity to start their life by 21, without their past mistakes following them throughout their life. The prior law would make it impossible for the now-adult person to restart their life until the age of 26.

Reasoning Behind the Change

The reasoning behind the current statute was originally in favor of public safety. The ability to put the public on notice that a minor had a criminal background was seen as favorable. However, there is little evidence to show that knowledge of this criminal background in any way improved public safety since many factors can influence minors and their criminal behavior. Sometimes the punishment and the minor maturing were enough to deter future criminal behavior, but with the criminal history still relevant, the minor could never fully get past his/her delinquent background. It takes away the very things – college education, financial stability, job security, home ownership – that make a person less likely to fall into recidivism. Marking these adults for acts as minors does not correlate with public safety. The bill, if and when passed, will have a huge impact on those attempting to move forward beyond their stigmatized past.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Expunctions and sealings can have a significant impact on a child’s life. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik could help you and your child find ways to further seal and expunge his/her juvenile record to help optimize his/her future without the past blight. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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