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Long Island police records fight could lead to the dismissal of all of a department's drunk driving cases

Law enforcement stops a driver.
Rich Pedroncelli

Thousands of drunk driving charges could be dismissed because Nassau County Police refuse to make disciplinary records public.

According to legal filings in a lawsuit over whether Nassau Police have to turn over disciplinary records, prosecutors say 143 drunk driving cases are “imperiled” because District Court Judge Andrew Engel is requiring that police turn over disciplinary records for each case. Prosecutors said the Nassau County police won’t give them the records, therefore it can’t comply with discovery laws.

In 2020, state lawmakers repealed 50a, the law shielding disciplinary records from disclosure. Many police departments in the state have released records. Nassau and Suffolk police have not. Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that these records are still shielded under other laws and is suing Judge Engle to prevent disclosure.

Engle hears about two thousand drunk driving cases a year. According to the DA’s office, all of them could be dismissed because of the standoff.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.