Tuesday, March 20, 2012
 

 

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Law to expand New York's DNA databank signed

ALBANY – A bill that makes New York State the first "all crimes DNA" state in the nation, by requiring DNA samples be collected from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor  was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo who was  joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. In addition, the new law also significantly expands defendants' access to DNA testing and comparison both before and after conviction in appropriate circumstances, as well as to discovery after conviction where innocence is claimed.

Governor Cuomo introduced the DNA Databank expansion legislation as a centerpiece of his 2012 legislative agenda.

"I am proud to sign this bill today because this modern law enforcement tool will not only help us solve and prevent crimes but also exonerate the innocent," said Cuomo. "The bottom line is that this is a tool that works, and will make the state safer for all New Yorkers. I thank Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver, Senators Saland and Golden, and Assemblyman Lentol for their leadership on this issue."

Ann M., mother of a rape survivor said, "By signing this bill today, the Governor and the Legislature are taking the necessary steps to not only solve and prevent violent crimes, but also help other families from the pain my family has suffered over the past decade — pain no parent should ever be forced to suffer. I thank the New York State Senate and Assembly for passing this much needed expansion. In addition, I thank the Governor for keeping his promise to pass this bill and for his dedication to keeping our state safe."

The agreement includes the following reforms to the criminal justice system:

  • "All Crimes DNA" Expansion: This legislation will make New York the first state in the country to expand its DNA databank so dramatically, a reform that promises to solve thousands of crimes and prevent thousands more. Since its launch in 1996, New York State's DNA Databank has been a powerful tool both for preventing and solving crimes- including more than 2,900 convictions. DNA evidence has helped exonerate
    27 New Yorkers who were wrongfully convicted and countless suspects cleared early-on in investigations.
    Previously, state law only permitted DNA to be collected from 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. Among the exclusions were numerous crimes that statistics have shown to be precursors to violent offenses. As a result, New York State missed important opportunities to prevent needless suffering of crime victims and failed to use a powerful tool that could be used to exonerate the innocent.
  • Expanded Access for Certain Criminal Defendants to DNA Testing: This legislation will allow defendants in certain criminal cases to obtain DNA testing prior to trial to demonstrate their innocence. Further, under appropriate circumstances defendants convicted after a guilty plea will be allowed access to such testing. Together, these reforms will help to ensure that innocent defendants are not convicted or, if convicted after a plea, are able to demonstrate their actual innocence.
  • Expanded Access to Discovery for Certain Criminal Defendants After Trial: In limited circumstances, defendants will be able to seek discovery of property and other materials to demonstrate their actual innocence after their conviction. Such discovery will provide the court with the evidence necessary to reach a proper decision on a defendant’s motion for such relief.