When it comes to sentencing in a criminal case, a court is not allowed to consider a proceeding in which the defendant was ultimately acquitted or that was otherwise resolved in favor of the defendant. In this case the Court of Appeals considered whether the Appellate Division properly concluded that the defendant in a criminal possession of a controlled substance case was not entitled to resentencing when the sentencing court improperly considered unsealed records related to another criminal proceeding that resulted in the defendant being acquitted.
In this drug crime case, the defendant pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree. The deal he struck with the prosecution was that in exchange for pleading guilty he would receive a sentence of four years of imprisonment followed by three years of post-release supervision. However, there was a condition to the defendant receiving this sentence: he had to stay out of trouble. In other words, if the defendant committed another crime, the sentencing agreement was void.
Before the sentencing hearing the defendant was again arrested and was prosecuted for another crime. Had he been convicted, this would have been an obvious violation of the plea agreement. However, he was ultimately acquitted and the transcript of the trial was sealed pursuant to CPL 160.50. Under New York’s sealing law, under certain circumstances a criminal record is hidden from public view and from most government agencies. However, law enforcement can access the records, as can the courts and certain agencies.