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Florida Senate committee approves three criminal justice bills

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(The Center Square) — The Florida Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee signed off on three bills Tuesday, including one that would expunge certain criminal records and another that would criminalize the harassment of first responders.

Senate Bill 54 was presented to the committee by its sponsor state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral. It would revise the eligibility criteria for a person with a criminal history expunged if a court dismissed it.

The bill would allow a person to have their criminal history expunged as an adult if they had a previous record as a juvenile.

Rodriguez filed an identical bill during the 2023 regular session, SB 504, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill. Rodriguez stated that there is a need for workers in Florida, and being unable to expunge one’s criminal record puts up barriers for people trying to find gainful employment.

“I think at a time where the state and the nation are having a hiring epidemic, and businesses are hurting for workers, this bill would remove the barrier of an arrest which had no conviction from someone’s record, and allow them to become a working, productive, and tax paying citizen,” Rodriguez said.

The bill was reported favorably and is now with the Fiscal Policy Committee.

SB 188 was introduced by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jason Broduer, R-Lake Mary. It would amend specific Florida statutes to make it a third-degree felony offense to trespass on a commercial agricultural property with the intent to commit a crime.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, raised concerns about people wandering onto commercial property unintentionally and receiving a felony charge for it.

Committee Chair Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers, explained that the bill is specific for people who intend to commit a crime which is established through evidence gathered by investigators. The bill passed favorably and is now with the Agricultural Committee.

SB 184 was presented by Sen. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah Gardens. It would criminalize the act of impeding, threatening, or harassing a first responder if that person has received a warning to not approach and allow the first responder to perform their legal duty.

Sen. Avila stated that the bill adds a layer of protection for not only first responders but those they are attempting to help. The bill passed favorably and is now in the Community Affairs Committee.

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