January 29, 1996
Mr. Ronald Stanfield
Marcy Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 3600
Marcy, NY 13403-3600
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Stanfield:
I have received your letter of January 9 and the correspondence attached to it. In conjunction with your attempt to acquire a copy of a search warrant, you indicated that you wrote to the Office of the Suffolk County Attorney and the District Court of Suffolk County and were advised that the Freedom of Information Law does not apply to the courts. You have asked how you might obtain the record in question. I note that the Assistant District Attorney who responded to your request indicated the file concerning the case does not include the search warrant.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, the Freedom of Information Law pertains to agency records, and §86(3) of that statute defines the term "agency" to include:
"any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature."
In turn, §86(1) defines the term "judiciary" to mean:
"the courts of the state, including any municipal or district court, whether or not of record."
Based on the foregoing, the courts are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law.
Other statutes, however, may grant rights of access to court records (see e.g., Judiciary Law, §255) and it is suggested that a request might be directed to the clerk of the appropriate court, citing an applicable provision of law as the basis for the request.
Second, assuming that you are referring to a warrant related to your arrest, I point out that §120.80(2) of the Criminal Procedure Law states in part that:
"[U]pon request of the defendant, the police officer must show him the warrant if he has it in his possession. The officer need not have the warrant in his possession, and, if he has not, he must show it to the defendant upon request as soon after the arrest as possible."
As such, it would appear that copies of warrants would be available to you from either the police department that made the arrest or the court in which the warrant was introduced in a proceeding.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Hon. Peter J. Newman, District Court Judge
Marcia R. Lombardo, Assistant District Attorney