Monthly Column: State Assembly must pass All Crimes DNA bill A.S.A.P.

 

On the last day in the month of January, the State Senate passed legislation, by a resounding vote of 49 to 10, to expand New York’s DNA database to require the collection of DNA samples from all crimes upon conviction.  The law, as it is written now, requires a DNA sample from people convicted of felonies and only 36 misdemeanors in the penal law.  Unfortunately, this means that in over half of all criminal convictions, those convicted do not have to supply a DNA sample. 


This has hampered local law enforcement’s ability to resolve investigations in a timely manner for both victims of crimes and their families, and enabled some criminals to remain free to commit additional crimes with devastating consequences.  Simply put, the law stops short of being completely effective.


Senate Bill No. S5560A, which I am a co-sponsor and voted in support of, would expand those requirements to include people convicted of all crimes – all felonies in State law and every penal law misdemeanor – to submit a DNA sample to the database after being convicted. 


Over the years, the State’s DNA databank has enabled criminal investigations and prosecutions to be more accurate, as well as helped to exonerate the innocent.  Since its inception in 1994, DNA stored in the databank has been used to identify perpetrators in about 10,000 crimes, including 900 murders and 3,500 sexual assaults. Since 2006, when the DNA databank was expanded to include 36 misdemeanors, law enforcement agencies have used the information to convict 1,460 criminals.


It is projected that the expansion would add about 46,000 individual DNA samples a year to the databank.  This legislation is a crime-solving mechanism for law enforcement to keep our residents safe and protect our community from people who continue to violate the law but remain undetected.  Additionally, the law stands to protect innocent people who have been wrongly accused or wrongly convicted. 


While I am pleased that the State Senate  has approved this proposal, I have been left disappointed by the lack of action in the State Assembly.  This legislation mirrors the DNA database expansion plan proposed by Governor Cuomo in his Executive Budget, and shortly after the bill passed in the State Senate, Governor Cuomo insisted the State Assembly pass the bill and even offered to sign it into law promptly after its passage.


I am joining the Governor in calling on the New York State Assembly to pass this legislation as soon as possible so that it can be signed into law immediately, and local law enforcement officials can begin to put this stronger crime-solving mechanism into action. For more information or to read the legislation, visit my website at ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov.


 


Senator Ranzenhofer's monthly column appeared in the Amherst, Clarence and Ken-Ton Bees on Febraury 15, 2012.