Assemblywoman Gunther: DNA Databank Expansion Will Help Police Solve Crimes

Measure gives New York the most expansive DNA databank in the nation and can help exonerate the innocent

Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther (D,C-Forestburgh) announced the Assembly passed legislation supported that expands the list of offenses that require a DNA sample from a convicted offender, while also enacting provisions to help ensure that defendants and wrongfully convicted individuals have more fair and equal access to DNA testing and the DNA databank (A.9555). The legislation had the support of the Senate and the Governor.

“Ever since its inception, DNA evidence has revolutionized criminal investigations, helping solve thousands of cases that might have gone unsolved without it,” Gunther said. “By expanding our offender DNA databank, we will help our police officers and local officials solve more crimes and put dangerous criminals behind bars.”

The new list of crimes for which DNA will be collected will include all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors, except in limited circumstances, such as when individuals are convicted of the class B misdemeanor of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree. The bill takes effect on Oct. 1, 2012.

The DNA databank is used to match known suspects with unknown biological (DNA) profiles obtained from investigations and crime scene evidence. Since the DNA criminal databank was created in 1996, there have been more than 10,000 hits against the databank, aiding more than 2,900 convictions. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, convicted offenders 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 New York databank will now include a DNA profile for every person convicted of such a crime after the effective date of this bill.

“DNA evidence does not change or fade as time goes on,” Gunther said. “It is imperative that our police departments have access to modern technology to help ensure that criminals are kept off our streets and away from our families. Expansion of the databank will give law enforcement another tool for identifying and convicting these perpetrators.”

This 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 rightfully prove their innocence, Gunther added.

“Wrongful convictions not only harm and imprison innocent defendants, they leave our families vulnerable to the criminals left free to commit other crimes,” Gunther said. “This legislation allows fair opportunities for court-regulated access to testing and the databank when a defendant may be innocent, while at the same time strengthening the ability of law enforcement to assure that guilty persons are caught and punished.”