Yesterday, the Florida First District Court of Appeals filed an opinion on a Jacksonville record expunction case,
36 Fla. L. Weekly D275a. Last year, a Jacksonville criminal defendant, appealed Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt’s denial of his petition to expunge his criminal record. The Florida appellate court ruled that Judge Senterfitt’s “reasons for denying his petition were not sufficiently related to the particular facts and circumstances of his case.” At the hearing, no evidence was presented and the judge:
“entered an order denying Appellant’s petition based on the nature of the charge and the nature of Appellant’s occupation. According to the order, Appellant works at a car wash where he has contact with the public, “obviously including children.” The trial court opined that the public’s compelling interest in knowing the character of those who provide a service to the community, particularly the children of the community, justified denial of the petition.”
The Florida appellate court reasoned that “a trial court must weigh the policy of public access to records against the ‘long-standing public policy of providing a second chance to criminal defendants who have not been adjudicated guilty.'” Indeed, “the court’s discretion must be exercised based on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding the records at issue, and not solely on the nature of the charge.” A trial court cannot “deny a petition for expunction based on facts that would be applicable to any person seeking such relief.”
Judge Senterfitt found that since he would obviously have contact with children through his occupation, but “there was no evidence indicating that Appellant works in a position of trust, that he has more contact with children than the average person, or that his job places him in the position of having unsupervised contact with children.” Therefore, Judge Senterfitt’s denial was improper, and the Florida appellate court reversed her ruling and remanded the case back to her for reconsideration.