The New York Supreme Court has ruled in a class action suit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) that the department violated state law by using information from sealed arrests without a court order.
Under New York state law, the information obtained from an arrest that does not result in a criminal conviction is supposed to be sealed, and any evidence obtained during the arrest (such as the suspect’s personal property, mugshots or fingerprints) are generally supposed to be either returned to their owners or destroyed as appropriate. However, it was discovered that the NYPD had been improperly retaining information obtained from these sealed arrests and had been using the evidence to advance the investigation and prosecution of other cases. This was not merely an error, but a deliberate violation of the law, the judge in the case ruled, and had resulted in real and systemic harm.
For example, the lead plaintiff in the suit, referred to as “R.C.” in court filings, was falsely accused of robbery due to a mugshot of his that was included in a photo lineup. The mugshot was from a years-old dismissed arrest, which was legally supposed to have been destroyed when the arrest was dropped, and the case sealed. Because of the identification from that photo lineup, R.C. had to contend with the charge for a year, during which time he had to go to court ten times. He lost his job due to his repeated work absences and became so depressed that he gave up on plans to attend college.
Sadly, R.C.’s situation is not unusual, and the case will now proceed forward to evaluate the NYPD’s policies and determine the extent of their illegal conduct. In the end, the victims of the NYPD’s illegal evidence retention policy may receive restitution for the harm they have suffered.
When you’re accused of a crime, you might be confused and scared and not know where to turn. Which is why, if you have been placed under arrest, you’ll need experienced lawyers to help you protect your rights and get the best outcome for your case. Call the Law Offices of McGuire, Palaez & Bennett at (631) 348-1702, and we’ll put our skills to work for you.