Legislation approved Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee would help juveniles expunge their arrest records after they complete diversion programs for misdemeanor offenses.
Supporters say sending non-violent offenders to pretrial diversion programs can save money and help people avoid being marked for the rest of their lives for youthful indiscretions.
But the House bill (HB 205), which is now ready to go to the House floor, differs from a Senate version (SB 196) that would require civil citations for many juveniles who are first-time misdemeanor offenders. The House version would allow law enforcement to decide when civil citations are appropriate.
"It is very important that law enforcement retain the discretion," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who supports the House bill. "Discretion is vital to successful public safety and to the successful implementations and operations of these programs."
The House Judiciary Committee voted 16-1 to approve the bill, with Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, opposed. The House and Senate need to work out their differences on the issues before the scheduled May 5 end of the regular legislative session.