From: Freeman, Robert J (DOS)
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 1:04 PM
Subject: RE: Question
Hi again ‐ ‐
Here’s the story in a nutshell…. First, section 50‐b of the NY Civil Rights Law states that any record that identifies or tends to identify the victim of a sex offense is confidential. In most circumstances, if identifying details are deleted, the remainder of a record is accessible. However, the Court of Appeals has held that the record that identifies or tends to identify the victim of a sex offense is confidential in its entirety.
Second, with respect to records relating to domestic incidents (assuming that there is no issue involving a sex offense), there are several possibilities. If x and y are having a fight, the cop comes to the door, sits them down, and leaves in 10 minutes, and if there’s no charge or arrest, it is our opinion that the fact that x and y had a fight is nobody’s business. However, the police vehicle in front of the house isn’t invisible. That being so, the portion of a record indicating that an incident occurred at a particular time and place should be public, but the details involving the fight may be withheld. Next possibility, the fight results in an arrest. We don’t have secret arrests in this country, and the fact of the arrest is always public. Also, the more that’s available from a court, less is the ability of a police department to deny access. Next, if a charge is dismissed in favor of an accused, the records are sealed. Finally, if there is a charge resulting in a conviction, more is available from the police department and the court. Also, although the courts are not subject to FOIL, most court records are available under other provisions of law.
Hope this helps.