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Gov. Ron DeSantis’s stance on critical race theory, his ‘don’t say gay‘ law, and a strict anti-abortion policy has angered millions of Americans. Nevertheless, a new Florida bill he signed into law allows youth to enter adulthood with a clean record.

Notably, although the initial legislation was drafted by a member of the Florida Republican Party, Gov. 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 with 0 no votes.

Gov. DeSantis finally got 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 the House and Senate.

Delvin Davis, the regional policy analyst for criminal justice reform at the SPLC Action Fund, said, “Under this legislation, children can get their records expunged if prosecutors choose to place them in a diversion program instead of the criminal justice system.” He added, “This is common-sense legislation that we’re grateful the House and Senate have unanimously passed and that Governor DeSantis has signed.”

Numerous studies have shown that a youth’s brain is still developing throughout their mid-20s, meaning they can learn, grow and become rehabilitated.

Florida law passes

Specifically, House Bill 195 requires the expungement of nonjudicial arrest records of minors who successfully complete diversion programs for specified felony offenses rather than only for misdemeanor offenses.

Teenagers who successfully complete the diversion program can be exonerated for any covered offense, even if they deny or do not acknowledge certain information.

Christian Minor is the Florida Juvenile Justice Association Executive Director and has pushed for youth criminal justice reform and common-sense legislation for four years. He aided in drafting the initial bill-turned Florida law that would help youth start adulthood with a clean record.

“When we first created and wrote the language for this bill, we had actually dealt with an African-American youth, who had gone through a post-arrest diversionary program, completed it successfully — and it was for a very low-level felony offense — he had taken an iPhone, and the charge had followed him, until the age of 21,” Minor said in support of the Florida law.

“He lost a college scholarship, and then he was having a hard time getting jobs and employment. Our big concern was, what happens when these kids lose hope? What pathway does this take them down? Do they revert to a life of crime?” Minor said.

Also, taking effect on the same date as HB 195, HB 197 specifically provides an exemption from public records requirements for a nonjudicial 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 statement of public necessity.

“When it comes to a 16 or 17-year-old who is deciding what path he wants to go on in his life, whether he wants to go college, whether he wants to go straight to the workforce or serve in the military, or even in law enforcement when it comes to trying to procure housing or student loans, he’s not going to have an arrest holding him back,” minor said in reference to the new Florida law.

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