Currently, if you are convicted of a felony or one of 37 misdemeanors in the state of New York, you must submit to a DNA screening and have your genetic code entered into a database. But the volume of this database could be significantly increased if Governor Andrew Cuomo has his way.
Supporters of the Governor’s measure say that the DNA database already helps to catch criminals and prevent future crimes, and that by expanding the database it will only be more effective.
Opponents, on the other hand, claim there are not enough safeguards in place to ensure people’s civil liberties are protected and the value of the database has not been completely quantified..
The New York’s division of the American Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is calling for an independent task force to study the outcomes of investigations using DNA and whether people’s rights remain protected in those processed. They are also asking that the state Commission on Forensic Sciences become a independent body with “expanded regulatory oversight authority,” according to WGRZ Channel 2.
The database was started in 1996 and has been expanded three times since, in 1996, 2004, and 2006. In that time, there have reportedly been 10,200 matches, helping law enforcement to solve numerous crimes and resulting in convictions in 189 homicides, 591 sexual assaults, 1,344 burglaries, and 320 robberies. It has also led to 27 exonerations.
By matching the evidence at a crime scene, for example, with someone already entered in the DNA database, police can more quickly identify and eliminate suspects. Similarly, they can prevent wrongful convictions and cases of mistaken identity.
“By expanding the databank, we will give law enforcement one more tool to bring criminals to justice, clear those who have been wrongly accused, and prevent more New Yorkers from becoming future victims of horrible crimes,” says Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) expressing his support.
Of course law enforcement and similar organizations support the move to expand the database. The expansion would add another 200 misdemeanor crimes to the list of those in which DNA is collected.
The NYCLU is concerned about both due process and about the fallibility of DNA evidence. The legislative director of the organization says that research has shown “a surprisingly high incidence of error, fraud and abuse in the handling, analysis and presentation of evidence.”
Senator Klein has sponsored the legislation that would make the expansion possible.
DNA collection is only one of the many consequences of a criminal conviction. Many of these consequences can impact your life long into the future. If you are accused of committing a criminal offense, contact our offices today to discuss how we might be able to help.