In a previous blog post, we mentioned the possibility of amendments to Florida’s direct file system, which would potentially narrow the range of juvenile offenses eligible for trial as an adult offender. This proposed amendment, along with a proposed bill aimed at increasing eligibility for records expungement, sit atop the Legislature’s docket for the upcoming sessions – prompting many to reconsider the plight of young offenders charged with crimes, which is a potentially life-altering experience.
Citing the sheer immaturity of many juvenile offenders, advocates for this demographic reiterate the realistic effects of teenage indiscretions on offenders’ ability to obtain housing, employment and education later. Accordingly, lawmakers are making strides toward equalizing the playing field for many of Florida’s juvenile offenders while ensuring that punitive measures are, in fact, consistent with the crime committed – and not unintentionally burdensome through adulthood.
Expungement is a process through which a former offender may apply to have his or her criminal record removed from permanent record. Currently, there are a number of legal hurdles and obstacles awaiting anyone wishing to expunge a juvenile criminal record, and a high number of applications are denied each year. Moreover, anyone seeking an expungement – which is often necessary to seek enrollment in a college or university – must wait until they are at least 24 years old, making the process additionally (unnecessarily) burdensome for those wishing to move past their arrest and conviction.
Under the proposed reforms, the age at which a former offender may seek expunction would be reduced from 24 to 21. The process would still only be reserved for non-habitual, non-violent offenders, but would allow young adults the opportunity to advance in life toward academic and career goals much faster than would otherwise be possible.
Proponents of the changes also point out the positive effect of expungement for those children who live in Florida’s foster care system, noting that a significant portion of these children commit juvenile indiscretions as early as 10 or 11 years of age. By 18, these same children are often looking to enroll in college or the military, and could be unduly hindered by mistakes made years prior.
Expungements are currently obtained through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Some former juvenile offenders are eligible for expungement upon completion of a diversion program. Others must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE stating that the applicant is statutorily eligible for expungement. In either event, the applicant must gain ultimate approval for expungement by petitioning the court to enter an order as such – which may be denied at the discretion of the judge.
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If you are considering an expungement or would like to discuss your rights following a recent criminal charge, please contact the Fowler Law Group today: 941-404-8909.
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