George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da T⁠i⁠mes Un⁠i⁠on — Juven⁠i⁠le records should be expunged more of⁠t⁠en

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015

Florida Times Union
“Juvenile records should be expunged more often”
By Editorial Board
October 7, 2015The open door policy by the state on juvenile arrest and conviction records can lead to closed doors when it comes to employment, scholarships, housing, college and more.Under current state statute, juvenile arrest records aren’t kept confidential or expunged automatically once a child becomes an adult. That means the notion of giving juveniles convicted of a minor offense a second chance when they turn 18 is almost nonexistent.“Everyone always thinks that they’re expunged at 18,” says Colleen Mackin, who’s with constituency services for The Children’s Campaign, “but that’s just not true.”The records for juveniles arrested and convicted of nonhabitual, nonserious misdemeanor crimes can follow them until — at age 24 — they’re automatically expunged by the state.But before that, trouble may dog their lives.They may be turned down for jobs, denied college aid or entrance, or prohibited from living certain places.It’s not just. And it’s not fair.Youngsters “make less than intelligent decisions, with no intentions of being criminal, which may lead to unintended consequences,” state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said in a prepared statement when he filed his bill (HB 147) in September.“It is my hope that young people who made a mistake are able to have their records cleared and are able to more effectively obtain jobs and careers.”BRING JUSTICE SOONERNow two bills, Latvala’s in the House and a similar one in the Senate (SB 386), seek to provide youngsters legal forgiveness for their minor juvenile offenses sooner.The hope is that earlier record expungement could help young adults restore their lives even before they begin spiraling downward because of their criminal records.The bills lower the age at which juvenile misdemeanor records are expunged to 21. Some low-level felonies such as vandalism and shoplifting over $300 are included in the bill.While the bills cover juveniles who have been arrested for misdemeanors, they do not address those convicted of serious felonies. Those people will still have to wait until they are 26 years old before their juvenile records are expunged.In addition, the legislation addresses a second problem that has confronted other juveniles for years.While juveniles who completed diversion programs — such as Teen Court or for-profit treatment centers — can have their records expunged, the state specifies that such requests for expunction must be filed within 12 months of completing the diversion program.That’s actually a good thing for these juveniles.But far too many youngsters and parents are never informed of the 12-month application cut-off and so are locked out of possible expungement until they reach 24. That despite the fact they’d completed rigorous and sometimes costly diversion programs.“We see that all the time,” Mackin says.Under the proposed legislation, juveniles who have completed diversion programs will have an unlimited time to file to have their records expunged.WIDE SUPPORTThe new bill is similar to one proposed last session that failed to advance, in part because it was attached to a set of adult reforms that were less acceptable to legislators. This year’s bill stands on its own.In addition, it has attracted a wide variety of support from a number of organizations, including the conservative James Madison Institute in Tallahassee and the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville.If passed during the 2016 legislative session, the bill stands to affect hundreds of juveniles and young adults each year.Last year, for example, a total of 27,277 24-year-olds in the state received expunctions of their misdemeanor records.That same year, the records of 415 youngsters who had gone through a diversion program were expunged — a number that would rise with the new legislation.This legislation highlights what is the right thing to do with juvenile misdemeanor records.Mackin suggests Floridians call their representatives and voice their support for the bills. “All they need to say is, “Hey, I support giving these kids a second chance.”It’s the right thing to do.Youthful mistakes, once resolved in the justice system, should not follow a person into mid-adulthood.Article: