Is my court file, which references my HIV status, a matter of public record?
Jul 3, 2012
So my question is in regards to a traffic violation (biking in a bus lane). I am in NYC and my case was ACD- I was sentenced to a 2 hour seminar on biking safety. The woman who gave me my 'social services contract' asked me if I had any health issues and I (before even considering) told her I was positive-yada yada, I then asked her to remove it as I didn't want it to be there and she told me 'at that point it was mandatory'. My question is: does this make my status a matter of public record? She assured me it was private but I am still bothered. I answered without thinking but her refusal to remove it has made me feel violated in a way I have never felt with my status before. Thanks for the time.
Response from Ms. Douaihy
Thank you for submitting this question.
As you learned the hard way, in New York City (and many other jurisdictions) a bicyclist may be held liable for traffic transgressions just as a motorist would under the state's Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL). It sounds like the disposition of your case was an "Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal" (ACD), which means after a period of time (and completion of any mandatory programs) your case will be dismissed. In New York, a dismissed case (including an ACD) is "sealed" by operation of statute. So the bottom line answer to your question is that once you successfully complete the bike safety program and the time period passes, your entire case file should be sealed, including this document. Sealing means that the public cannot generally access your case file, which should include this document. You may want to check your court papers to find out when the matter should be dismissed and sealed, and then request your own criminal record to make sure it is - I recommend the Legal Action Center's website (www.lac.org) for a handy guide to this process.
Notwithstanding the above, I share your outrage. I do not see any reason the safety program administrator would have to make a note of your HIV status! I think that the sentencing program likely notes medical conditions in case a participant has a health issue that might affect participation in the program (i.e. seizures). It is important to know that you do not need to disclose your HIV status in a situation like this, and it can be difficult to protect information once disclosed in the absence of a proper authorization form. Importantly, if you were denied services or treated differently after you disclosed your HIV information you may have a remedy. If that is true, you should consult with an attorney who may help you file an internal complaint or pursue legal action.
Good luck to you.
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