GOVERNOR: STATE DNA DATABANK TO BE EXPANDED
NYS Commission on Forensic Science Votes to Expand DNA Databank to Include Profiles from Additional Convicted Criminals; Governor Calls on Assembly Leadership to Allow Vote to Expand DNA Databank and Eliminate Statute of Limitations
Governor George E. Pataki today announced that the New York State Commission on Forensic Science has approved the Governor’s Proposal to expand the DNA Databank to include profiles from the broadest range of convicted criminals permitted under current law.
Today’s vote by the Commission authorizes the Division of Criminal Justice Services to expand the DNA Databank to add as many as 40,000 profiles of convicted criminals by the end of next year.
This action follows the Governor’s call last month for the State’s criminal justice and mental health agencies to take every step possible under the current law to keep dangerous sexual offenders off of our streets and away from our children.
“Like with our civil confinement legislation, I simply could not wait any longer for the Assembly Leadership to vote on our common-sense proposal to expand the DNA Databank to include all convicted criminals. They have given me no choice," Governor Pataki said. “We will continue to push the envelope within the bounds of current law in an effort to further protect New Yorkers and their families.”
The additional DNA profiles will be obtained voluntarily from convicted criminals who want to take advantage of early release from prison or parole, receive a sentence of probation instead of jail, plea bargain to a lesser offense, or participate in the Department of Correctional Services’ discretionary programs that result in early release into the community.
“DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st Century, but more than half of the individuals who are convicted of felony offenses in the State are still not required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the DNA Databank,” Governor Pataki said. “And less than one-third of all criminal offenses are designated for the mandatory collection of DNA.
“Experience has shown that criminals convicted of lower or mid-level crimes have committed, or will commit, more serious and violent crimes. And while the state Senate has been a great partner in supporting the expansion of a database that would go a long way towards more fully employing this proven, powerful crime-fighting tool that has helped to convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, discourage recidivism and help bring justice to victims and their families, the Assembly leadership has refused to allow the bill to come up for a vote, despite overwhelming bi-partisan support.
Also, on November 28, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of New York State’s DNA Databank.
New York State Director of Criminal Justice Chauncey G. Parker said, “For years, Governor Pataki has proposed common sense DNA legislation that will allow New York State to fully harness the power of DNA technology. Unfortunately, just like many of our other critical criminal justice initiatives—civil commitment, enhancing Megan’s Law, illegal gun trafficking—this legislation has received overwhelming support from the New York State Senate but has not been brought to the floor for a vote by the Assembly leadership. We know that every time we expand the New York State DNA Databank we save lives, exonerate the innocent, and give crime victims the justice they deserve.”
The New York State DNA Databank
The State first established a DNA Identification Index (“DNA Databank”) in 1996. Initially, the DNA Databank included DNA identification profiles for approximately 20 crimes. Due to the Governor's efforts, the Legislature expanded the Databank in 1999 to require the collection of DNA profiles of all persons convicted of violent felony offenses. In 2004, the Legislature, again at the urging of the Governor, expanded the Databank to require the collection of DNA profiles from persons convicted of a felony or misdemeanor under the Sex Offender Registry Act, crimes of terrorism, felony hate crimes, and other specified felonies. In total, there are about 153,000 profiles currently in the Databank. On November 28, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of New York State’s DNA Databank.
Since April 2000, there have been 2,209 “hits” linking offenders to 3,473 crimes -- crimes that may well not have been solved without the use of forensic DNA technology and the DNA Databank. More than 1,600 of these hits were as a result of the 1999 and 2004 expansions of the DNA Databank. The amendments made to the law in July 2004 resulted in 112 additional hits linking offenders to previously unsolved cases, including 76 rape cases and 13 homicides.
However, more must be done. More than half of the individuals who are convicted of felony offenses in the State still are not required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the DNA Databank. Less than one-third of all criminal offenses are designated for the mandatory collection of DNA. Current law does not require DNA samples from felons convicted of serious drug crimes, purveyors of voyeuristic videos, criminal pornographers, identity thieves, forgers and a host of other serious crimes. And the State's DNA Databank currently contains crime scene DNA evidence from more than 16,000 unsolved crimes in the State that could be solved if the DNA Databank were expanded.
While the State Senate repeatedly has passed the Governor’s proposed legislation by overwhelming, bi-partisan majorities, the State Assembly has refused to allow the Governor's bill to the floor for a vote. The most recent vote in the Senate was 55-1 in favor of the Governor's proposal. Consistent with his obligation to protect New Yorkers from crime and violence, the Governor directed his staff and criminal justice agencies to determine whether the State could take any additional steps within the bounds of current law to add additional DNA profiles of convicted criminals to the DNA Databank.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services is authorized to establish and revise the DNA Databank through an implementation plan, subject to the review and approval of the plan by the New York State Commission on Forensic Science and the DNA Subcommittee. This Implementation Plan provides the framework for the operation of the Databank and specifies the type of profiles that may be included in the Databank.
Governor Pataki's Legislative Proposal to Expand the DNA Database
The Governor's most recent DNA legislation was passed by the Senate 55-1, but has yet to be introduced in the Assembly. It includes the following elements:
Expand DNA Databank to include DNA profiles of all convicted criminals.
Toll the statute of limitations in criminal cases in which the identity of the defendant is established by means of DNA evidence, thereby avoiding the tragedy in which DNA evidence solves a crime, but the perpetrator avoids justice due to the expiration of an out-dated statute of limitations.
Provide for the retention and confidentiality of DNA samples maintained outside the State DNA Databank.
Establish the Innocence Project Program to fund the use of DNA to prove the innocence of wrongfully convicted persons.
Require the Commission on Forensic Science to develop best practices regarding the collection and preservation of biological evidence by law enforcement agencies and laboratories.
Create the new crime of aggravated perjury to punish as a felony any false testimony regarding a DNA hit.
DNA Legislation in Other States
Forty-three states, including California, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut, require DNA from all convicted felons. Eighteen states require DNA from persons convicted of misdemeanors. Five states allow collection of DNA from persons arrested or indicted for designated crimes. Thirty-one states require DNA from juvenile offenders. Persons convicted in federal court of a felony offense must provide a DNA specimen for the national DNA Databank.
For more than a decade, New York State has experienced an unprecedented reduction in crime. Over the past ten years, violent crime in New York State has been cut in half and crime is at its lowest levels since statewide crime reporting began - nearly 40 years ago. In 1994, New York State was the sixth most violent state in the nation. Today, New York is the sixth safest state overall, and the safest large state in the country.
With an overall decline in crime of 47% since 1994, there have been 400,000 fewer crimes in 2003 than a decade earlier-- a remarkable statistic that can only be attributed to New York’s tough, but smart criminal justice polices and the tireless efforts of local law enforcement officers.