Vacate conviction-Tell Florida to help stop recidivism & to start helping rebuild lives

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My name is Heather Wilson. I have a thirty-nine-year old brother with traumatic brain injury and several other medical conditions dating back to his childhood. As coping mechanisms for his condition, he got into drugs, alcohol and, ultimately, trouble. He takes responsibility and does not dodge or try to dismiss what he did.

In 2001, his apartment was broken into. He got into a fight with the guy who broke in. As they fought, they moved outside of the door's threshold, and my brother was thrown to the ground, reached for a board with a nail in it and hit the person who broke into his home. The other guy who was helping the thief was the witness in court and my brother was convicted of aggravated battery. First it is important to note, that had this happened inside of his home, it would have been rendered self-defense. The person who broke in did not deny what he did. Frankly, if someone attacked me and threw me to the ground-anywhere-I'd pick up whatever object I could to defend myself, too. Perhaps it was because my brother is a Latin male. Perhaps it is because he had prior drug use history. Perhaps because it was a bad neighborhood. Regardless, what happened to him after was wrong.

Because of his conditions, he was unaware of his rights. He didn't really know what was going on. He took what they gave him and now, almost seventeen years later this follows him. His attorney misinformed and misguided him.

I cannot find him a place to live (he lives in a hotel) because property managers won't take a violent felon. He can't work in places for people with disabilities because they also won't accept felons. In the state of Florida, a violent felony is not eligible for expungement, no matter the number of years since the act was committed. My brother served his time (in jail and prison). We have contacted lawyers and they've all said to "fill out a form" with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). That's all fine and dandy, but it specifically states,

"DISQUALIFYING CHARGES FOR EXPUNCTION/SEALING

A request for a certificate of eligible for an expunction or sealing of a criminal history record will be denied if the defendant was found guilty or pled guilty or nolo contrendere, even if the adjudication was withheld, on any violation of the following:

...#3 Aggravated Battery...

Offenses listed in S.907.041, F.S. can be found by clicking here."

According to this, he's not eligible for expungement. The Florida Governor's Office replies telling us to fill out the state form. This is not helping us or others who have paid their debt to society and want to rebuild their lives. 

He is frozen in 2001. This will follow him forever. He'll be 80 years old and still excluded from renting apartments.

There are about 70 million people in the USA with arrest records. This is not an implication that every offender should have their records expunged or sealed, however, as a society we cannot claim we want to stop recidivism, but set people up to fail. 

Please help me tell Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to open provisions for expungement for aggravated assault and aggravated battery for those who have not re-offended for a period of ten years, giving them a chance to become contributing members of society, especially if medical and extenuating circumstances can be proven. She is supposed to stand for criminal justice; it should go both ways. 

By the way, my brother is clean and sober. He has helped numerous others become clean and sober. He volunteers and is being the change as much as he can. It is my hope he and others living in hotels because they aren't deemed worthy of apartment living will soon be able find places to call home. His "offense" should be vacated and the law should be updated from the antiquated misguided text that sits on the Florida books today.

Thank you for reading and signing.

Heather Wilson



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