Anyone convicted of a felony and most misdemeanors will have to submit their DNA as part of new legislation signed into law today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law an historic 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. "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 Governor Andrew Cuomo. "The bottom line is that this is a tool that works, and will make the state safer for all New Yorkers."
It will require collecting a saliva swab from everyone convicted of any felony and all but one penal misdemeanor starting Oct. 1. It excludes misdemeanor possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana in public view. Various lower-level violations are also excluded.
The legislation makes New York the first state in the country to expand its DNA databank so dramatically. It will allow defendants in certain criminal cases to obtain DNA testing prior to trial to demonstrate their innocence. Under appropriate circumstances, defendants convicted after a guilty plea will be allowed access to the testing.
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.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has been a staunch supporter of the bill. Last week, he publicly supported the legislation saying, "DNA is an extremely valuable tool in solving crimes, convicting the guilty and exculpating the innocent," said Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick. "It is a travesty that this tool has not been used to its fullest potential in New York because of misleading information perpetuated by its opponents. Expanding the Databank will unquestionably solve crimes, save lives and make this state a safer place to live."
Fitzpatrick pointed to a recent case locally where the expanded database would have saved a woman's life. In 2007, 65-year-old Carol Nelson was sexually assaulted and murdered in a wooded area off 7th North Street in the Town of Salina. Her killer, Glen Shoop, had two prior convictions that under the proposed bill would have required his DNA profile to be in the database.
At the time of her murder, those convictions did not require Shoop to provide a DNA sample . If it had, he would have been in custody for a prior 2000 unsolved rape case and Nelson's life would have been spared, Fitzpatrick said.
Since its launch in 1996, New York's databank has led to more than 2,900 convictions and helped exonerate 27 people who were wrongfully convicted.