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DISABILITY ADVOCATES, INC. v. MCMAHON

July 31, 2003

DISABILITY ADVOCATES, INC. AND J.R., PLAINTIFFS, VS. JAMES W. MCMAHON, SUPERINTENDENT NEW YORK STATE POLICE, DEFENDANT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Hurd, District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Disability Advocates, Inc. and J.R. commenced the instant action asserting violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), and section 504 of the [ Page 2]

Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, arising out of the New York State Police's*fn1 ("police") utilizing an Arrest Report form, performing certain checks of police databases, and sending a "File 13" in connection with detentions pursuant to N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law § 9.41 ("section 9.41"). In short, plaintiffs contend that defendant criminalizes mental hygiene pickups by treating or labeling them as arrests, thereby discriminating against persons with mental disabilities. Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiffs oppose and cross-move for summary judgment. Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion. Oral argument was heard on March 28, 2003 in Albany, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

On September 23, 1996, J.R. experienced command hallucinations that caused her to cut open her stomach with a razor. (Pl.'s RSMF at ¶ 25.)*fn2 The New York State Police responded to J.R.'s home. (Id. at ¶ 23.) The police took J.R. into custody pursuant to N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law § 9.41*fn3 and transported her to a hospital. (Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28, 30.) Following [ Page 3]

this incident, the police made a "blotter" entry, sent a File 13 message, and filled out a form entitled "New York State Police Arrest Report." (Id. at ¶ 17; Salvino Aff., Exs. 1, 2.)

The "blotter" is a book at each police station recording all official activities. (Pl.'s RSMF at ¶¶ 7, 16.) A "File 13" is a uniform arrest message sent via the New York Statewide Police Information Network ("NYSPIN"). (Id. at ¶ 8.) The NYSPIN is a basic coordinating communication system established by the State Police for the purpose of the prompt collection and distribution of information. (Id.) A File 13 message records information such as the arrested person's name, date of birth, the location of the arrest, and the classification code of the offense involved. (Id. at ¶ 9.) The File 13 is a database used for statistical analysis and arrest report tracking. (Id.) It is not and cannot be used in relation to the arrested person's criminal history record. (Id.) The File 13 database is not available to organizations other than the State Police. (Id.) On its face, the File 13 does not indicate that J.R. was arrested. (Salvino Aff. at Ex. 2.) The File 13 indicates the "charge" as "MHL2475," presumably referring to the Mental Hygiene Law. (Id.)

The police wrote on the Arrest Report that "subject despondent over recent divorce and contemplating suicide for several months, subject also being treated for multiple personality disorder, subject did take razor blade and attempt to kill herself by cutting open her stomach." (Salvino Aff. at Ex. 1.) In box 31 of the Arrest Report entitled "Charge," the police typed "mentally ill person." (Id.) In box 31A of the Arrest Report entitled "C.C. Code," the police typed "MHL2475." (Id.)*fn4 In box 32, the police noted that J.R. was detained for a violation; not a felony or misdemeanor. (Id.) In boxes 33 and 34, the police indicated that [ Page 4]

J.R. was detained pursuant to N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law § 9.41. (Id.) In box 36 of the Arrest Report entitled "Authority for Arrest," the police checked the box "pickup." (Id.) In box 40 entitled "disposition," the police checked the box "other," and typed in "Dr. Auberg — Saratoga Hospital." (Id.) The Arrest Report further indicated that the police checked the NCIC*fn5 and DCJS,*fn6 and advised J.R. of her rights. (Id.)*fn7 The Arrest Report notes that no accusatory instruments were filed and that the police did not take J.R.'s photograph or fingerprints. (Id.) Finally, the Arrest Report stated that the status of the matter was "closed." (Id.)

Arrest reports are maintained by the State Police. (Pl.'s RSMF at ¶ 13.) If criminal prosecution ensues, arrest reports may be sent to the district attorney's office. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Information from arrest reports is not entered into the NYSPIN. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Information from arrest reports is entered into the State Police Management Information Network ("SPMIN"). (Id. at ¶ 14.) The SPMIN is a database storing information about State Police activities and is not a part of an individual's criminal history record. (Id.) Information from the SPMIN is not available outside the State Police. (Id.)

When the police make an arrest for an offense, the officer brings the individual to the police station. (Id. at ¶ 2.) If the offense charged is a felony or misdemeanor, the police obtain the person's photograph and fingerprints. (Id.) By law, the police also are required to present the individual to the local criminal court or issue an appearance ticket. See N.Y. Crim. Pro. Law §§ 140.20 (arrest without warrant); 120.90 (arrest upon warrant). Here, J.R. [ Page 5]

was taken into custody and taken to a hospital. She was not photographed, she was not fingerprinted, she was not handcuffed, she was not taken to the police station, she was not charged with any crime, she was not brought before a local criminal court, and there were no entries on her criminal record. (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 34.)

In April 2000, J.R. was being considered for appointment to the Board of Visitors of the Capital District Psychiatric Center. (Id. at ¶ 35.) The police were asked to conduct a confidential background investigation concerning J.R.'s potential appointment (Id. at ¶ 36.) J.R. signed a release authorizing the police to access her mental hygiene records. (Id. at ¶¶ 39, 40, 41.) The police ran a background check and determined that J.R. was not a wanted person. (Id. at ¶ 44.) The investigation confirmed that J.R. had been arrested on an unrelated matter in April 26, 1983 for unlawfully dealing with a child, she pleaded guilty, she was fined, and she was given an unconditional discharge. (Id. at ¶ 45.) The investigation revealed no other criminal record. (Id. at ¶ 46.) The September 23, 1996 arrest was not part of J.R.'s criminal history, it was not revealed in the criminal record check, and was not included in her background investigation. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Further, plaintiff's September 23, 1996 admission to the hospital was not noted in the investigation concerning her mental health record. (Id. at ¶ 48.)

J.R. alleges that she did not know that she had been "arrested" in 1996 until the background check was conducted in 2000, nearly four years after the arrest. (Pl.'s SMF at ¶ 20.)*fn8 J.R. further alleges that a New York State Trooper told her that she could never run for [ Page 6]

office or hold a government job because of her mental health arrest. (Id. at ¶ 21.) J.R. also claims that when she called the New York State Police to inquire about her mental health arrest, a trooper responded that "[w]ell you know what we tell our children don't you? Don't do anything you are going to be ashamed of later on." (Id. at ¶ 22.)

Plaintiffs commenced the instant action claiming that characterizing a custodial detention pursuant to Mental Hyg. Law ยง 9.41 as an "arrest" criminalizes mental illness, thus violating the Equal Protection and Due Process rights of mentally disabled ...


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