People v. Blackman
Court Discusses Section 160.50 of the CPL to Determine Whether the Defendant’s Record should be Sealed
The defendant requested to seal her record and to return her prints pursuant to section 160.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law. The defendant was charged with driving while intoxicated DWI and driving while intoxicated in violation of section 1192(3) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. The defendant was also charged with disorderly conduct, a violation of Section 240.20 of the Penal Law which she pled guilty to with the imposition of a conditional discharge sentence. The defendant asserted that her fingerprints and photograph be returned when both were taken when she was charged for driving while intoxicated since she pled guilty to a non-printable offense of disorderly conduct. The defendant stated that she was entitled to the benefit of section 160.50 of the CPL as the criminal proceeding was terminated in her favor. The defendant relied on the cases of People v. Flores, 393 N.Y.S.2d 664, People v. Miller, 394 N.Y.S.2d 1006, and Dwyer v. Guido, 54 A.D.2d 956, which returned the accused fingerprints, photographs and sealed the records.
The court rejected the decision of the cases which the defendant relied on based on opinions published to interpret the provision after the decision of Flores and Miller. Section 160.50 of the CPL states that upon the termination of a criminal action or proceeding in favor of such a person, the record of the action or proceeding shall be sealed. The interpretation of the phrase in favor of such a person was the crux of the case. The legislature gave circumstances of what was considered in favor of such a person in subdivision 2 of section 160.50 CPL where there was a termination of a criminal action or proceeding against the defendant. The subdivision gave seven instances which did not include pleading to a reduced or lesser charge than what the defendant was initially charged. The case of Dwyer and Flores can be distinguished as the dockets and/or accusatory instruments on which prints and photographs were taken were dismissed and guilty pleas entered on separate non-printable accusatory instruments. Furthermore, the Dwyer case was decided under section 79-e of the Civil Rights Law and did not involve section 160.50 CPL and pre-dated the adoption of section 160.50 CPL. Therefore, the Legislature had not yet defined the phrase in favor of such person and there was room for a court to interpret such phrase and look to the intent of the Legislature. Where the defendant pled guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct, a nonprintable offense, which was added to same accusatory instrument containing original charge of driving while intoxicated
DWAI, a printable offense, it could not be said that proceeding on that accusatory instrument was terminated favorably to the defendant so as to entitle her to return of her fingerprints and photographs and sealing of record.
The legislature explicitly and specifically set forth circumstances under which proceeding could be deemed terminated favorably to the defendant, for purposes of entitling her to return of photographs and fingerprints and sealing of record, there was no longer any room for judicial interpretation or room for the court to seek the intent of the legislature. The court was bound by the legislature’s mandate as to meaning of statutory phrase terminated in favor of such person, and if THE legislature was guilty of oversight, it was up to that body to correct it.
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