Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) announced that he co-sponsored legislation (A.9555) to expand the list of offenses that require a DNA sample from a convicted offender. The bill also enacts provisions to help ensure that defendants and wrongfully convicted individuals have more fair and equal access to DNA testing and the DNA databank.
“I am pleased to support valuable enhancements to this crime fighting tool,” said Simanowitz. “The accuracy of DNA evidence has solved thousands of cases, exonerated vast numbers of people who were wrongfully accused and provides our local law enforcement with the means to solve more crimes and put dangerous criminals in jail.”
The expanded list of crimes for which DNA will be collected include all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors, with some exceptions, such as when individuals are convicted of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree which is a class B misdemeanor.
The DNA databank matches known suspects with unknown biological profiles from a pending investigation or left at a crime scene. Since the inception of the databank in 1996, there have been more than 10,000 hits resulting in over 2,900 convictions. According to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice, convicted criminals who are currently in the databank have, on average, been convicted of three previous crimes for which no DNA was collected – before they committed a crime that required such a sample. The databank will now include a DNA profile for every person convicted of such a crime after Oct 1, 2012 which is the effective date of this bill.
The legislation also clarifies the authority of a court to order post conviction testing when a defendant has filed a motion to vacate a conviction and the court finds that such testing would help determine a person’s innocence. This access will give more defendants the chance to prove their innocence.
“Our police need the latest technology to keep our communities safe,” added Simanowitz. “DNA evidence can be kept for long periods of time without it losing its viability. I believe that we will see more convictions as a result of these enhancements to the database and we will also find more people will be able to prove their innocence if they are falsely accused. All New Yorkers should feel safer as a result of the Assembly’s efforts.”