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What are New York Criminal Court Records?
New York Criminal Records consist of all records created in relation to criminal court proceedings. It also includes information or documents maintained or received by a court clerk on behalf of the court in relation to a criminal case. Criminal court records may include court orders, judgments, calendars, indexes, and other information used in a case tracking system related to a criminal court case. Court records may be available as digital files online or in paper or some other physical form (DVD and more).
Note: Court records do not include drafts, memos, and notes maintained by court clerks and officials that are unconnected to a criminal court case. It also doesn’t include any drafts or notes prepared for a judge by court staff.
Understanding the New York Criminal Court System
The New York Criminal Court Structure is divided into three broad levels: the Courts of Appeal, the intermediate appellate courts, and the Trial Courts.
- Courts of Appeal: Composed of six Associate Judges and a Chief Judge, the Court of Appeals serves as New York’s highest court. It hears appeals for different cases, including criminal cases involving the death penalty.
- Appellate Divisions: The New York intermediary appellate courts are made up of the Appellate Divisions of the Superior Court, county courts (third and fourth department) and appellate terms of the Supreme Court (first and second department).
- Trial Courts: New York trial courts serve as the courts of "original instance". They include the supreme courts, county courts, district court, city courts, town courts, and village courts.
Are all New York Criminal Records Open to the Public?
Most New York criminal records fall under the umbrella of public records law. This means members of the public have the right to inspect and copy these records by contacting the clerk at the respective courthouse. However, this isn’t a blanket law. Although New York Law 255-B specifies that interested parties may inspect records, there are several exceptions to this rule. For instance, criminal records may be closed to the public if they contain juvenile information or if the defendant is found not guilty. Sealed criminal records are also unavailable to the public.
How to Access New York Criminal Court Records
Members of the public can obtain criminal court records by:
- Searching online to see if the court provides an electronic medium
- Visiting the courtroom to inspect records in person
- Sending a request to the court clerk (via mail or in-person)
Searching for records using alternative record retrieval services
How do I Access New York Criminal Records in Person?
Step 1. Identify the Right Court
To access criminal records in person, it’s important that interested parties first identify the courthouse where the case is filed. The New York State Unified Court System consists of multiple courts, including supreme courts, county courts, criminal courts, district courts, city courts, town courts, village courts, and family courts. Many of these courts preside over different types of criminal cases. For instance, the New York City Criminal Court presides over misdemeanors and lesser offenses while the New York County court has general jurisdiction over criminal cases. And while Town and Village courts preside over violations and misdemeanors, District Courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and lesser offenses in several counties.
Step 2. Gather Case Information
In accordance with Section 255 of New York law, all requests for copies of records must be submitted to the clerk of court, who in turn is tasked with searching, making copies, and certifying the correctness of records. To simplify the search process, most courts recommend that members of the public provide as much related information as possible, including the name of the defendant/parties involved and the case number if known.
Step 3. Visit the Courthouse and View Records
Most New York courts allow members of the public to physically inspect publicly available court records using public terminals provided at the courthouse. Interested parties can schedule a visit for this during regular business hours. However, visitors are prevented from removing court records from the courthouse. Instead, copies can be made on request.
Step 4. Pay Fees to Obtain Copies
Most criminal records fall under the umbrella of public records. But even though the actual records are free,Section 255 of New York’s judiciary law permits clerks to charge a fee for the services provided while searching, copying, or certifying records. Members of the public will be expected to pay the appropriate fee before records are released. The total fee varies depending on the type of request and court. Some courts charge a fixed fee for copying and certifying records, while others charge separate fees for either service.
Are Transcripts of New York Criminal Court Proceedings available to the public?
Yes, transcripts of criminal court proceedings are open to the public. Most courts have court reporters that make an electronic or stenographic recording of the in-court proceedings. A copy of this record can be obtained by contacting the court reporter. The cost and process of obtaining a transcript vary with different courts. For instance, members of the public can obtain transcripts of criminal cases heard in White Plains, New York by submitting a completed form, listing the date of request, case number, case title, and type of proceeding.
To obtain the transcript of court minutes, interested parties must have specific information such as:
- The date of the proceeding
- The court reporter’s name
- The indictment number and/or the defendant’s name
The name of the court reporter for each court case can be found on the court file, which is located in the Central Clerk’s Office at:
100 Centre Street,
New York, NY 10013,
Can I Access Sealed Criminal Court Records?
In other to access sealed New York criminal records, members of the public will need to make a motion to vacate the order. Interested parties can also challenge the order sealing the record or make a direct appeal to the court. However, once sealed, most criminal records remain closed to the public.
In most cases, the restrictions on sealed records do not apply to defendants. Defendants listed on a sealed criminal case may be able to access their own records by presenting a picture I.D to a clerk in the Central Clerk’s Office situated at:
100 Centre Street,
New York, NY 10013,
Sealing Criminal Court Records
In accordance with New York’s criminal procedure law (CPL 160.59.1a), individuals convicted of a crime are eligible to apply for a sealed criminal record if:
- 10 years have passed since their sentencing (jail time not included)
- They have a maximum of two criminal convictions
- Only one of the convictions is a felony
Although New York law makes provisions for sealing criminal records, certain crimes are not eligible to be sealed. Affected parties may not apply to have their records sealed if they have been convicted of:
- Sexual Abuse or any offense that requires registering as a sex offender
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Any Class A, B, C, D, or E violent felony
How Do I Find New York Criminal Court Records Online?
The New York State Unified Court System provides public access to a searchable database that contains case papers and court decisions. Users can search through the records of trial-level courts as well as decisions from the appellate divisions.
It also maintains a free publiconline WebCriminal platform that provides information on pending criminal cases that have been filed in local and superior courts. Members of the public can search through the platform in various ways. Users can search through the criminal court records by the name of a corporation or the first and last name of a defendant. Users can also search through cases by using a known summons number or case number. Searches can be narrowed to include a specific court.
In addition, interested parties can search through the court’s calendar to find cases coming up in specific courts within a fixed period. It provides case and calendar information such as the name of the presiding judge for each case, the docket number, case type, and attorney assignments.
What’s a New York Criminal History Record Search?
The New York Criminal History Record Search (CHRS) provides statewide public criminal court records related to a subject’s conviction in a criminal case. The search includes records sourced from city, town, village, and county/supreme courts across all 62 courts. The NY Criminal History Record Search is restricted to only criminal court records. It does not include civil or family cases. It also does not include records of federal criminal court cases, sealed records or records of cases that have been “removed” or “transferred” from Family Court.
Note: CHRS reports are based on exact matches of names and date of birth. Variations in a name or date of birth may result in incorrect or no results.
How Do I request a Criminal History Record Search?
The NYS Office of Court Administration processes requests for criminal history searches. Interested parties will be required to provide the subject’s name (full first and last names) and the subject’s date of birth. To obtain a criminal history search electronically, interested parties must submit a completed application form, providing a name, phone number, address and any other specific information. The New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) also provides an online direct access platform that members of the public can use to submit a request. The office charges $95 for each request.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.