The Marshall Project

Your Arrest Was Dismissed. But It’s Still In A Police Database.

In New York City, officers are illegally using information from arrests that have been sealed, according to a lawsuit. The practice is legal in more than two dozen states.

When a man named J.J. was arrested in the Bronx in 2016, the public defenders assigned to represent him assumed he’d get a good plea deal. After all, it appeared to be a low-level case. J.J. had been a passenger in his friend’s car when police had pulled them over for allegedly failing to signal a turn; the officers then searched the vehicle and found an unlicensed gun inside.

J.J.1, now 31, was not the owner or driver of the car, yet he was charged with gun possession, according to his attorneys. Still, he had no criminal record, which usually meant that prosecutors would offer him leniency.

Instead, the Bronx District Attorney’s office insisted on prison time for J.J., which confused his lawyers until, just weeks before trial, they were era, when police had been authorized to stop, search and sometimes baselessly arrest people who look like J.J., who is black.

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