Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Millions of criminal records may be sealed in Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a public records bill that could possibly result in the sealing of millions of criminal history records.

Scott, in his letter announcing his decision to sign the bill (SB 118) asserted that criminal records will remain open to the public because of the way the bill was worded. He said the provision was dependent on another bill that did not pass so "this section of the bill will not take effect."

Open government advocates who called for a veto said Scott's interpretation is possible but that it's not clear-cut.

"It's surprising and disappointing," said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. "I think it's worthy of a veto."

The measure pushed by Sen. Greg Steube, a Bradenton Republican, dealt initially with creating a way for people to have their arrest mugshots removed from websites.

But the bill was changed so that records are sealed once the opportunity for appeals has expired. The bill requires the automatic sealing of arrest records or records of an "incident of alleged criminal activity" if a prosecutor or state attorney declines to file charges, all charges were dismissed before trial or the person charged was acquitted or found not guilty.

The legislation could require nearly 3 million criminal records to be sealed, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The First Amendment Foundation said the legislation could apply to high-profile cases such as those of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman, both of whom were acquitted.

Attorney General Pam Bondi last month raised questions about the legislation, saying it's important in sex offender cases to know if someone has been charged previously.

Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for Bondi's office, said Friday that "it is our understanding that arrest records involving violent offenders and sexual predators will remain public, and if that is the case, we are pleased."

Steube defended the bill in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, saying that "people that went to trial or had a judgment of acquittal by a judge still have all of this on their record, and it's still hard for them to get a job. These people want to be contributors to society, and we're not giving them the opportunity to do it."

Millions of criminal records may be sealed in Florida 06/16/17 [Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2017 8:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no

    Courts

    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  2. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

    Blogs

    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  3. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  4. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com