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2004 Criminal Justice Accomplsihments--one Of The Best Years Since The 1970's

 

(Albany, NY) Senator Dale M. Volker (R-I-C, Depew) today commended the Republican and Democratic Senate Members of the Senate Committee on Codes for their outstanding contributions in protecting law-abiding New Yorkers, our communities, and our families. The Senate Codes Committee, which directly shapes the Senate’s criminal justice initiatives, reported over 181 bills from its committee, which the State Senate passed 164.

"The 2004 Legislative Session was one of the most tumultuous in history, yet one of the untold success stories has been the successful enactment of several state criminal justice laws that will complement existing law enforcement initiatives that have culminated in historic reductions in crime," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "Although many believe that the State Legislature is dysfunctional, and it certain instances it may seem that way, in the area of criminal justice the members of both political parties have come together and have put politics aside in order to protect our communities, our families and our loved ones from perpetrators of crime. As the Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee I am truly thankful to work with my fellow Senate Colleagues who have demonstrated, time and time again, their commitment and dedication in passing crime-fighting measures that continue New York’s stature as one of the most safest states in the entire nation."

The following are several new laws recently passed by the State Legislature and enacted into law by Governor George E. Pataki:

EXPANSION OF THE DNA LAWS (Volker--Senate Bill 7659, Chapter 138 of 2004)

This new law will expand the use of the State's DNA databank and enhance New York's status as a national leader in the use of DNA technology. This new law will add close to 100 new crimes that require a convicted criminal to provide a DNA sample to the Statewide DNA databank. The legislation will add -- for the first time -- all sex crimes and sexually-violent crimes, including 19 misdemeanors to the list of crimes that require a convicted criminal to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the databank.

The following is a list of 31 registrable sex offense felonies and misdemeanors that will now require a convicted criminal to provide a DNA sample to the Statewide DNA databank. These are crimes in which DNA evidence is often instrumental in bringing a criminal to justice. For the first time, a conviction of these crimes will require a sex offender to provide a DNA sample to the databank:

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Registrable Sex Offense Felonies:

Attempted course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree; Attempted criminal sexual act in the second degree; Attempted promoting prostitution in the first degree; Attempted promoting prostitution in the second degree; Attempted sexual abuse in the first degree; Persistent sexual abuse; Promoting prostitution in the first degree; Promoting prostitution in the second degree; Attempted rape in the second degree; Attempted unlawful surveillance in the first degree; Unlawful surveillance in the first degree; Unlawful surveillance in the second degree;

Registerable Sex Offense Misdemeanors:

Sexual misconduct; Attempted sexual misconduct; Attempted rape in the third degree; Attempted criminal sexual act in the third degree; Forcible touching; Attempted forcible touching; Attempted persistent sexual abuse; Sexual abuse in the third degree; Sexual abuse in the second degree; Attempted sexual abuse in the second degree; Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree; Attempted unlawful imprisonment in the first degree; Patronizing a prostitute in the third degree; Attempted patronizing a prostitute in the third degree; Attempted patronizing a prostitute in the second degree; Attempted incest; Attempted possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child; Attempted possessing a sexual performance by a child; Attempted unlawful surveillance in the second degree.

The legislation also includes approximately 70 other felonies that will also now be included in the DNA databank. Established in 1996, and expanded in 2000, New York State's DNA Identification Index currently requires all violent felons and a number of non-violent felony offenders to submit DNA samples upon conviction. The list of offenses now covers 65 percent of all felony crimes and applies to roughly 15,000 felony offenders each year.

ANTI-TERRORISM ENHANCEMENTS (Balboni--Senate Bill 7685, Chapter 1 of 2004)

The bill is a comprehensive plan to enhance the safety of New York's citizens by severely penalizing those who commit or would commit terrorist acts and to improve New York's ability to prevent and respond to incidents of terrorism.

Part A: Prohibiting Possession and Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons Crimes Would create seven new felony offenses criminalizing the possession or use of dangerous chemical or biological weapons.

Each new crime would be a violent felony offense punishable by a mandatory sentence to state prison; first degree offenses are punished by a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Increasing Penalties for Chemical and Biological Weapon Threats Would provide sentences of up to seven years in prison without parole for causing alarm by placing or sending to a person any substance designed to appear to look like a hazardous substance.

The bill targets persons, who would, for example, mail a powder substance that appears to be anthrax or engage in a similar course of conduct. Extending and Eliminating the Statute of Limitations For Terrorist Crimes Would enlarge the statute of limitations to allow greater flexibility in prosecuting crimes of terrorism. It would also adopt the same limitation for terror crimes that exists in federal law: when such crime causes or creates a foreseeable risk of death or serious physical injury, prosecution could be brought at any time; in all other cases, the statute of limitations would be extended to eight years. Adding Terrorism Offenders to the DNA Databank Would require all persons convicted of Penal Law, Art. 490 terrorism felonies to submit a body fluid sample for DNA analysis and typing. The results of this analysis and typing would then be added to the state's DNA databank. Authorizing Eavesdropping and Wiretapping Would amend New York's eavesdropping and wiretapping laws so that warrants could be issued and law enforcement authorities could use these devices to monitor communications - including wireless communications involving persons suspected of plotting terrorism offenses.

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Dramatically Increasing Penalties for Money Laundering for Terroristic Purposes Would increase felony penalties for money laundering. Under current law, for example, an individual who would launder $10,000.00 for the purposes of committing a crime would be guilty of a class E felony. The bill drastically lowers the threshold for committing that E felony by providing that if the same person launders money to support terrorism, he need only launder one thousand dollars to be guilty of the same class E felony. Similarly under current law, one would have to launder $1 million in order to be guilty of a class B felony. The bill provides that if a guilty party launders $100,000 of money intended for terrorism, he or she would be guilty of the same B felony and if the laundered also shared the terroristic intent, he would be guilty of a class A-I felony with the possibility of spending the rest of his life in jail. The bill would thus lower the threshold to 10% of the existing levels in order to impose some of the most rigorous penalties the law allows.

Part B: Establishing the State Office of Homeland Security Section 709 of the Executive Law is added to create the state office of homeland security and set forth its powers and duties which shall be:

Oversee and coordinate the state's homeland security resources;

Review homeland security policies, protocols and strategies of state agencies;

work and coordinate with other entities, state and private, to plan responses to and recovery from terrorist threats or acts;

conduct vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructure and develop strategies to protect them;

serve as a clearinghouse for municipalities regarding available grant programs;

act as primary contact with the federal office of homeland security Section 710 of the Executive Law is added to create the position of Director of the office of homeland security and sets forth the director's duties in administering the Office.

Part C: Increasing Chemical Plant Security.

This part would direct the Director of the Office of Homeland Security to conduct a review and analysis of security measures taken by chemical plants and storage facilities (such facilities require such a review to be determined by OHS and further defined to include, among other locations, such places that maintain "substances hazardous to human health" as defined by regulation and by the Environmental Conservation Law.) using a process and format similar to that mandated for energy generation and transmission facilities under Article 26 of the Executive Law and for water suppliers under Article 11 of the Public Health Law.

Part D: Expanding the Availability of Hazardous Material Training to First Responders

This part would expand the existing hazardous material training program administered by the Office of Fire Prevention and Control to require the office to conduct hazardous materials training with a sufficient frequency to ensure response to hazardous materials incidents in all geographic areas of the State.

Part E: Addressing the Continuing Needs of Statewide Wireless Communications Creating a Statewide Wireless Network Advisory Council.

This part would create a twenty-seven member Statewide Wireless Network Advisory Council, consisting of Governor, Senate and Assembly appointees, Executive agencies, representatives of first responder organizations, and communications technology experts to assist in the development and implementation of all integrated statewide communications system.

This bill would require the Advisory Council to consult and advise the office for technology regarding state purchases of information and communications technology and examine and make recommendations regarding the availability and reliability of means by which residents receive a timely response in all geographic areas of the state including remote mountainous areas and underground mass transit systems. This bill would also require the Advisory Council to explore ways in which new technologies may be introduced or enhanced. The Advisory Council would report annually to the Governor, the Temporary President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly.

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Part F: Enhancing Airport Security

This part would require general aviation airports to register with the Department of Transportation, and to document their security procedures in a written security plan to be submitted with registration applications. It would require that such plans be consistent with the most recent security guidelines for general aviation airports published by the federal Transportation Security Administration, and that each airport provide copies of their plan to local law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the airport, the New York State Police, and the New York State Office of Public Security.

Private-use and public-use general aviation airports would be directed to implement additional security measures, including requiring all aircraft to be double-locked (one lock internal, one lock external), and locking all hangers when not in use. Additional security measures applicable only to public-use airports include verification of the identity of aircraft passengers; maintenance of a log of transient aircraft; development of a written list of emergency contacts and telephone numbers for use by airport personnel; restriction of the access of unlicensed persons and student pilots to aircraft keys; a requirement that all persons renting aircraft present government-issued identification; the posting of airport security warning signs and advisories where appropriate; creation of all emergency locator maps to be provided to local emergency services and law enforcement agencies, and appropriate airport personnel; and familiarizing local law enforcement with the airport and consult with them in the development of security procedures. The bill also contains provisions protecting the confidentiality of critical security information.

DRUG LAW REFORM (Rules--Senate Bill 7802, Chapter 738 of 2004)

The new law will eliminate indeterminate sentences and create a determinate sentencing structure for drug offenders; offer re-sentencing for eligible non-violent A-I drug offenders in prison; increase the weight thresholds for the most severe possession crimes; and allow earlier release for those offenders in prison committed to treatment and recovery.

The cornerstones of the reform package include: replacing the indeterminate sentencing structure for class A-I drug offenders from indeterminate sentences of 15 to 25 years to life with determinate sentences ranging from 8 to 20 years; doubling, from 4 ounces to 8 ounces, the threshold possession weights required for an A-I drug felony conviction, and from 2 ounces to 4 ounces for an A-II drug felony conviction; allowing class A-I drug offenders currently in prison to immediately petition for re-sentencing; and reducing the prison time an offender is required to serve before becoming eligible for drug treatment programs and possible release. These reforms will complement the legislation Governor Pataki signed last year, which permitted merit time credit for those serving a sentence for an A-I drug felony under the law.

Highlights of the bill include:

DRAMATIC SENTENCE REDUCTIONS FOR NON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENDERS Shorter Minimum Sentences - Nearly 80% of drug offenders sentenced to prison annually could be eligible for a shorter sentence. - Class A-I, first-time drug offenders could receive a nearly 50% reduction in minimum sentences, from 15 years to 8 years. - All other non-violent drug offenders could be eligible for earlier release, as well. Doubling of Weights for Possession - The threshold weights will double for class A-I and A-II drug possession offenses.

RETROACTIVE RELIEF FOR VIRTUALLY ALL NON-VIOLENT DRUG FELONS Relief for Class A-I Drug Felons - All class A-I drug offenders could apply for re-sentencing. All drug offenders serving life sentences for Class A-I drug convictions are eligible to apply for re-sentencing under the new laws. Relief for all other Non-Violent Offenders - All other drug offenders under custody (class A-II and below) who have not reached their minimum sentences could be eligible for an additional merit time reduction of 1/6 off their minimum sentences.

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Of the approximately 14,000 drug offenders currently in custody for a felony drug conviction, 446 are class A-I drug felons, serving life sentences with minimum terms of 15 years or more. The remaining drug offenders in prison serve, on average, 2.6 years in prison. The new legislation would reduce the lengthy minimum sentences for class A-I felons, while also shortening sentences for all other non-violent felons.