Relates to the unauthorized release of sealed records.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public officers law, in relation to the unauthorized release of sealed records
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To establish the crime of intentionally releasing or otherwise disclosing the nature, substance or contents of a sealed record.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill would create a new section 81 in the public officers law which would establish the crime of intentionally releasing or otherwise disclosing the nature, substance or contents of a sealed court record. Section 2 is the effective date
JUSTIFICATION: Under limited circumstances, criminal and family court records may be sealed to protect the subject of the record from the significant and fundamental limitations, scrutiny and stigma that they might otherwise suffer as a result of a public record. Once a record is sealed, in the eyes of the law, the entire incident never occurred. In most respects, a sealing restores you to the status you occupied before being arrested or charged.
Sealed records must remain sealed unless a statute specifies an exception or upon a written order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction lest we undermine the very purpose and policy we instituted when we granted the power to seal court records. In recent years, there have, been instances in which public officials have released sealed criminal and family court records in an effort to justify action taken against the individual. This cannot be tolerated.
The sealing provision attaches to a record, not to a person. To be clear, even if the subject of the record is deceased, records that have been sealed by the court are to remain sealed. Violation of this law may result in a criminal conviction punishable by up to a year in jail.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2014 New Bill in Senate
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7867 IN SENATE June 16, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. SAVINO -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Rules AN ACT to amend the public officers law, in relation to the unauthorized release of sealed records THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The public officers law is amended by adding a new section 81 to read as follows: S 81. UNAUTHORIZED RELEASE OF SEALED RECORDS. 1. ANY PUBLIC OFFICER, OR AN EMPLOYEE THEREOF, WHO INTENTIONALLY RELEASES OR OTHERWISE DISCLOSES TO AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON A SEALED RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS OF SUCH RECORD THAT HE OR SHE KNEW OR REASONABLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WAS A SEALED RECORD, UNLESS DISCLOSURE OF SUCH RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS THEREOF IS REQUIRED BY STATUTE OR UPON WRITTEN ORDER ISSUED BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION, SHALL BE GUILTY OF A CLASS A MISDEMEANOR. 2. NOTHING CONTAINED IN THIS SECTION SHALL: (A) PROHIBIT AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS THE SUBJECT OF A SEALED RECORD OR, IF SUCH PERSON IS DECEASED, THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF HIS OR HER ESTATE, FROM DISCLOSING TO ANOTHER THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS OF HIS OR HER SEALED RECORD; (B) PROHIBIT A PUBLIC OFFICER, OR AN EMPLOYEE THEREOF, FROM RELEASING OR OTHERWISE DISCLOSING SUCH RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS THEREOF PRIOR TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE ORDER SEALING SUCH RECORD; (C) PROHIBIT A PUBLIC OFFICER, OR EMPLOYEE THEREOF, FROM DISCUSSING EVENTS WITHIN SUCH OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE'S KNOWLEDGE SO LONG AS SUCH DISCUSSION DOES NOT CONFIRM OR DISCLOSE THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS OF A SEALED RECORD; (D) PROHIBIT A PUBLIC OFFICER, OR EMPLOYEE THEREOF, FROM RELEASING OR OTHERWISE DISCLOSING SUCH RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS THEREOF TO A PERSON IF HE OR SHE HAS REASON TO BELIEVE, IN GOOD FAITH AND WITH SUFFICIENT CAUSE, THAT SUCH PERSON IS ENTITLED TO RECEIVE SUCH RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS THEREOF; OREXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00096-01-3 S. 7867 2
(E) PROHIBIT A PUBLIC OFFICER, OR EMPLOYEE THEREOF, FROM DISCLOSING THE NATURE OR EXISTENCE OF A SEALED RECORD IN A GOOD FAITH RESPONSE TO AN INQUIRY WHEN SUCH DISCLOSURE IS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE SUBJECT OF SUCH SEALED RECORD. 3. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION: (A) "SEALED RECORD" SHALL MEAN ANY RECORD REQUIRED TO BE SEALED PURSU- ANT TO SECTION 160.50, 160.55, 160.58, 720.15, OR 725.15 OF THE CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LAW, OR SECTION 375.1 OR 375.2 OF THE FAMILY COURT ACT; (B) "UNAUTHORIZED PERSON" SHALL MEAN ANY PERSON WHO IS NOT ENTITLED TO RECEIVE OR WHO HAS NOT BEEN GRANTED ACCESS TO, A SEALED RECORD OR THE NATURE, SUBSTANCE OR CONTENTS THEREOF, PURSUANT TO STATUTE OR UPON A WRITTEN ORDER ISSUED BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.