Florida Governor Vetoes Criminal Justice Bill

July 13, 2023

The Governor of Florida recently vetoed the criminal justice reform bill, House Bill 605 (HB 605). This veto is a surprise due to the state’s House and Senate support. It remains unclear why he vetoed it.

Had the governor signed it, HB 605 would have amended the Florida statute concerning the expungement of criminal history records. In addition, it would have addressed the statute’s limitations or individuals seeking expungement after sealing another record within ten years. Modifying the existing legislation would have significantly impacted Florida’s eligibility criteria for expungement.

Under HB 605, individuals could qualify for expungement if:

“An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record, was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor, or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction, unless such dismissal was pursuant to s. 916.145 or s. 985.19, or a judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge, or a verdict of not guilty was rendered by a judge or jury.”

Otherwise, they would qualify if:

“The person has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record under this section, s. 943.059, former s. 893.14, former s. 901.33, or former s. 943.058, unless: 

  1. Seeking expunction of a criminal history record previously sealed for ten years under paragraph (h), and the record is otherwise eligible for expunction; or 
  2. The approval of one prior expunction for a criminal history record for an offense committed as a minor and the record is otherwise eligible for expunction. This subparagraph does not apply if the prior expunction was for an offense when the minor receives a charge as an adult. The requirement to seal the record for at least ten years under paragraph (h) does not apply to this subparagraph.”

They would also need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility before petitioning the court to expunge the criminal history record.  

Despite the governor’s decision not to sign the bill, his senior staff members expressed their willingness to discuss it further. They expressed an interest in collaborating with Rep. David Smith on refining the bill’s language before the 2024 legislative session. The involved parties have expressed hope to have it signed next year.

Until then, employers should take this time to adopt second-chance policies. They can establish these policies by working closely with a reputable background check provider. The right partner will utilize their expertise to deliver fair and accurate reports.

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