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Governor Cuomo’s Groundbreaking New Law Expanding DNA Databank Goes Into Effect … Also Expanding Access To DNA Databank For Certain Defendants To Help Prove Their Innocence

cuomoEarlier this month, Governor Cuomo’s groundbreaking law expanding New York State’s DNA Databank went into effect – requiring anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor to provide a DNA sample.  This means that now, DNA samples will be collected from anyone in New York convicted of a Penal Law misdemeanor or a state felony, including felony DWI under the Vehicle and Traffic Law (the law, which is not retroactive, does not apply to children in Family Court matters, youthful offenders or first-time offenders convicted of low-level marijuana possession.)

According to Governor Cuomo, this important new law — making New York the first state to expand its DNA Database so dramatically – will not only “help solve and prevent crimes and bring justice to victims …  but will prove innocence for the wrongfully convicted.”   By expanding DNA collection to anyone convicted of a Penal Law misdemeanor or a felony (prior to the law, DNA samples were only collected from those individuals convicted of a felony or one of only 36 misdemeanors under the Penal Law – representing about 48% of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime), the DNA Databank will now be an even more powerful tool in the criminal justice system.

However, in addition to greatly expanding DNA collection and the DNA Databank here in New York, this new law also went further in allowing DNA technology to help those who may have been wrongfully convicted of a crime.  The new law “includes expanded access to DNA Databank comparisons for certain criminal defendants, allowing them to obtain DNA testing before trial of after a guilty plea to demonstrate their innocence.  In addition, the law provides for greater access to discovery of evidence after conviction where innocence is claimed.”

DNA technology and DNA evidence have long been critical elements in criminal defense – since its creation in 1996, the DNA Databank has helped  to exonerate 27 New Yorkers and “exclude countless others from suspicion, often at the earliest stages of investigation.”  With this new law allowing certain defendants to have expanded access to DNA Databank comparisons and obtain DNA testing even earlier to demonstrate their innocence, the law is important news for the wrongfully convicted … and a major step in criminal justice.

DNA evidence has the potential to help solve crimes quickly and bring justice to victims of crimes – as well as set free those who have been wrongfully accused or convicted of crimes.  As this new law goes into effect, many applaud the expansion of the DNA Databank and the role that expanded DNA samples can have in helping to solve crimes more quickly in New York.  But others question whether collecting DNA samples from this expanded population is just one more extension of “Big Brother” government.  As scientific technology continues to develop, law enforcement authorities will be afforded new surveillance, tracking, and monitoring methods to solve crimes.  We must remain vigilant to ensure that basic privacy rights and personal freedoms are not infringed.

For more information and specifics about Governor Cuomo’s new law, click here: https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/pio/press_releases/2012-8-1_pressrelease.html.  In addition, for any questions about this new law, and to discuss how DNA evidence can be used to help in the defense of those accused of a wide variety of crimes, call us 24/7 at 516-294-0300.

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