Expansion of state's DNA databank goes into effect

Thomas F. O'Mara

August 02, 2012

Albany, N.Y., August 2—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the groundbreaking law expanding New York State's DNA databank by requiring anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor to provide a DNA sample is now effective.

State Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C-Big Flats) said that the State Legislature gave final approval to the expansion and it was signed into law by the governor earlier this year.  The expansion of the state's DNA databank is a move that law enforcement leaders locally and across New York State have called an essential modern-day crime-fighting tool.

“This action’s been strongly supported by local district attorneys, sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders as a key addition to New York’s criminal justice system for apprehending and prosecuting serious criminals, and as a deterrent to violent crime,” said O’Mara, a former district attorney.  “It will bring New York State more fully into the modern era of fighting crime.  DNA is recognized as the modern-day equivalent of a fingerprint.”

This year's action represents the largest expansion of the state’s DNA databank since it was created in 1994.   It mirrors legislation co-sponsored by O’Mara and approved by the Senate earlier this year to require people convicted of all felonies, as well as all misdemeanors in the penal law to submit DNA samples. 

Previously in New York, DNA was only collected in approximately 46 percent of crimes.

Under previous law, only criminals convicted of a penal law felony or 36 misdemeanor crimes within the penal law were required to submit DNA samples.  The now-effective expansion broadens that list to include all felonies in state law and every penal law misdemeanor.  It will add about 46,000 individual DNA samples a year to the databank. 

The move has been supported by many local law enforcement leaders, including district attorneys and sheriffs.  It also won the support of organizations statewide including the New York State Sheriffs Association, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the New York State Troopers PBA, and others

Since its inception, 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.