Police Com'r of Boston v. Municipal Court of Dorchester Dist.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation374 N.E.2d 272,374 Mass. 640
Decision Date16 March 1978

Page 272

374 N.E.2d 272
374 Mass. 640

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Jan. 4, 1977.
Decided March 16, 1978.

Page 273

[374 Mass. 641] Nicholas Foundas, Boston, for plaintiff.

Jonathan Brant, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the Municipal Court of the Dorchester District.

Stanley Z. Fisher, Boston, for intervener.

Before [374 Mass. 640] HENNESSEY, C. J., and QUIRICO, KAPLAN, WILKINS and LIACOS, JJ.

[374 Mass. 641]

Page 274

LIACOS, Justice.

This case presents for decision an issue of first impression in this Commonwealth and one which is of great import to the administration of the system of juvenile justice. The issue is whether a judge of a Municipal Court, sitting in the capacity of a Juvenile Court judge, properly ordered the police department of Boston to expunge from its records fingerprints, photographs, and other records pertaining to the arrest of a juvenile when a delinquency proceeding against him had been dismissed with prejudice. The expungement order which issued also required that same police department to retrieve copies of such data sent to other law enforcement agencies and to turn over all such records to the court for destruction.

Prior to stating the procedural history of this case, the facts underlying it, and the arguments advanced by the parties, we think it appropriate to summarize our views at the outset of this opinion. We conclude that the police department of the city of Boston generally has the right to create and maintain records pertaining to the arrest of juveniles, [374 Mass. 642] but that the right to maintain and disseminate such records must be balanced against the interests of the affected juvenile from being unnecessarily harmed by their existence. We conclude that where subsequent proceedings in a Juvenile Court indicate that little or no valid law enforcement purpose is served by the maintenance and dissemination of such records, the Juvenile Court judge has jurisdiction to issue appropriate orders to require sealing, expungement or other limitations on access to such records as may be necessary to protect the interests of the juvenile. We conclude further that the order issued by the defendant judge in this case does not reflect a careful consideration of the relevant factors involved, and hence remand the matter for further proceedings.

We turn now to consideration of the relevant facts and principles involved in this proceeding. This case was initiated by a complaint filed in the county court by the police commissioner of Boston under the provisions of G.L. c. 249, § 4, and G.L. c. 211, § 3. The complaint sought relief in the nature of certiorari against the judge who caused the particular expungement order to be entered. The complaint requested the county court to quash the order of the judge or, alternately, to remand the entire case to "an appropriate forum" for a further hearing. After the defendant judge filed his answer, the juvenile who had been arrested was allowed to intervene in the case. A single justice reserved and reported the case without decision on the pleadings and a statement of agreed facts.

The statement of agreed facts shows that the juvenile was arrested on January 10, 1975, and charged with an act of delinquency, G.L. c. 119, § 54, by reason of assault with force and intent to rob, G.L. c. 265, § 20. That matter came on for hearing in a delinquency proceeding in the juvenile session of the Municipal Court of the Dorchester District on February 7, 1975. At that time the Commonwealth informed the judge that it could not proceed with the case due to the unavailability of the alleged victim. The judge dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The juvenile's [374 Mass. 643] attorney then made an oral motion for an order to compel the police department to produce for destruction the records resulting from the arrest. 1 The judge asked the juvenile's attorney to draft such an order for his signature. The request was acceded to, and on February 13, 1975, the order 2 was signed by the defendant judge.

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The statement of agreed facts further shows that routine police procedures were followed in developing the records in issue. After his arrest, the juvenile had been taken to police headquarters where he was booked, fingerprinted and photographed. The records created, maintained, and disseminated are as follows:

(1) Three copies of the juvenile's fingerprints were made. One copy remained at police headquarters, one copy was sent to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety to be filed with the identification division, and one copy was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(2) Three copies of front and side photographs of the juvenile were made. One copy was sent to the police station in the district in which the arrest was made, one copy was sent [374 Mass. 644] to the Boston police department identification section, and the final copy was sent to the identification division of the Department of Public Safety.

(3) An arrest booking sheet form was completed in four copies by the booking officer at the police station. One copy was kept at the district station, a second was given to the arresting officer, and the last two were sent to central police headquarters, with one copy forwarded to the record section and one to the identification section.

(4) A so called incident report was filled out in two copies, one of which remained at the district station and one of which was forwarded to the central headquarters record section.

(5) A three-by-five inch file card was filled out at police headquarters containing the name of the juvenile and a cross-reference to yet another form maintained at headquarters containing spaces for more information.

It thus appears from the statement of agreed facts that information of varying specificity regarding the arrested juvenile was created by or distributed to: the arresting officer, the district police station, the record section and identification section at police headquarters, the identification division of the Department of Public Safety, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

At the time of this litigation the policy of the Boston police department regarding disclosure of juvenile arrest records was to follow the procedures established by the Legislature for dissemination of adult criminal records. 3 Thus, juvenile[374 Mass. 645] records could have been disseminated to "(a ) criminal justice agencies and (b ) such other individuals and agencies as are authorized access to (criminal offender) records by statute." G.L. c. 6, § 172, inserted by St.1972, c. 805,

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§ 1. 4 Authority to certify an individual or agency as qualified, to receive criminal offender records was delegated by the Legislature to the Criminal History Systems Board. Id. Acting under that authority, the board certified a number of agencies as qualified to receive criminal records from State or local police departments, and certified another group of agencies as qualified to receive such information from authorized[374 Mass. 646] sources. The record discloses that seventy agencies were certified under the first group, and that 146 agencies were certified under the second group, although there was considerable overlap between the two groups. 5 Apart from the agencies routinely contacted by the Boston police department, the record does not disclose which, if any, of the agencies certified by the board received information regarding the juvenile involved in the case before us.

The plaintiff argues that the order of the Juvenile Court judge is invalid on three grounds. He argues that the order is void (a) because the plaintiff was not a party to the action in which the order was entered and was afforded inadequate notice and opportunity to be heard, (b) because it was beyond the jurisdiction and authority of the defendant judge, and (c) because it was unsupported by any facts found by him. The defendant judge and intervener juvenile argue that a judge of a Juvenile Court has inherent power to order expungement of a juvenile's record after a dismissal of charges, that the order was a reasonable means of protecting the juvenile from the harmful effects of an arrest record, and that the order was properly made, on adequate notice, within the ancillary powers of the Juvenile Court.

Necessary to the resolution of these conflicting claims is a consideration of the statutory framework pertaining to the creation, maintenance, preservation and dissemination of such records, and the statutes pertaining to the powers of the Juvenile Court. We need also identify the respective [374 Mass. 647] interests of law enforcement officers in the maintenance of such records and the interests of the juvenile in their expungement. We turn first to a consideration of the relevant statutes pertaining to such records.

1. The Statutory Basis for Arrest Records.

General Laws c. 263, § 1A, as amended by St.1972, c. 217, provides that anyone who is arrested or taken into custody by a police officer "and charged with the commission of a felony shall be fingerprinted

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. . . and may be photographed. Two copies of such fingerprints and photographs shall be forwarded within a reasonable time to the commissioner of public safety . . . ." See G.L. c. 41, § 98; c. 94C, § 45. The Boston police department applied G.L. c. 263, § 1A, as applicable on its face to the juvenile in the case before us. The conduct for which the juvenile was arrested was an alleged violation of G.L. c. 265, § 20, conduct which would constitute a felony if he were an adult. The juvenile does not challenge the authority of the police to have taken fingerprints and photographs or to have compiled an arrest record, and thus we need not consider here whether a person "charged with the commission of a felony" includes juveniles who are arrested for the equivalent...

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