Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
In a historic move in March, New York became the first “All Crimes DNA” state in the nation after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to expand the state’s DNA databank. Once the new law goes into effect, any person convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor is required to provide a DNA sample.
Prior to the new law, less than half of those convicted of penal law crimes provided DNA samples. Yet, since the databank was created in 1996, nearly 3,000 convictions have resulted. Further, nearly 30 wrongfully convicted people were exonerated.
Proponents of the new legislation believe the expansion of the databank believe it is a game changer. According to Governor Cuomo, the law will make the state safer. In a released statement, Cuomo said “this tool will not only help us solve and prevent crimes but also exonerate the innocent.”
Critics are not as confident as Cuomo. Some say the new law is another example of increasing government control. ACLU and other civil rights groups are concerned the mass DNA collection is ripe for errors, abuse and fraud. Still others believe since once DNA is collected and recorded in the databank, it stays there permanently and could represent an infringement on the privacy rights of those convicted of nonviolent offenses such as:
- Fare jumping
- Drunk driving (DWI/DUI)
- Securities fraud
In the past, prosecutors have regularly utilized the databank information to help solve crimes and convict alleged offenders. During the formation and passage of the bills in the House and Senate, however, the legislation was also promoted as a tool to minimize wrongful convictions.
With the new law, the defendants will be given greater access to DNA testing. At present, defending attorneys are required to show reasonable cause in order to access the databank information even though that same information could, potentially, exonerate their clients. After October 1, 2012, when the law goes into effect, some defendants will be allowed to request comparison of crime scene evidence with the DNA databank.
“Expanding the DNA Databank ensures that science, not luck, will be the method by which we prevent and solve crimes,” said Elizabeth Glazer, New York state’s deputy secretary for public safety. “By passing the DNA bill, we have ensured that victims will have justice, that New Yorkers will be protected from crimes and that the wrongly convicted will have access to the Databank that can help exonerate them.”
A new initiative in New York State will require all persons convicted of a felony to provide DNA samples for the databank. This article is brought to you by Larkin Ingrassia, LLP.