District attorneys from two local counties joined law enforcement representatives Monday to praise Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to expand the state’s DNA databank.
“Every member of law enforcement knows the extraordinary power of DNA and how that science helps provide justice for all New Yorkers,” Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said in a prepared statement.
Hogan was joined by Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira and area police officers to support Cuomo’s proposal to expand DNA-eligible crimes to include all misdemeanors under the Penal Law, rather than the current 36, and all felonies under other state laws.
Hogan said law enforcement personnel are limited in their ability to use DNA to its fullest potential, as DNA samples are currently taken from only 48 percent of convicted offenders.
Hogan said they are grateful that Cuomo has made expansion of the state’s DNA databank a priority.
“This measure will help better protect New Yorkers and improve the state’s criminal justice system,” Hogan said in prepared remarks.
The governor’s proposal would require criminals to submit DNA upon conviction for all remaining Penal Law misdemeanors and any felony under other state laws, such as felony driving while intoxicated under the Vehicle and Traffic Law and aggravated animal cruelty under the state Agriculture and Markets Law.
Elizabeth Glazer, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for public safety, attended the afternoon news conference.
“Every day we wait to expand the state’s DNA databank, another cold case goes unresolved, a person wrongly convicted sits in prison, and we risk one of our loved ones falling victim to a crime that could have been prevented,” Glazer said.
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services says the state’s DNA databank has helped prosecutors solve more than 2,700 crimes, including 12 in Fulton County, 15 in Saratoga County, and 10 in Warren County. DNA evidence in the databank has also exonerated 27 New Yorkers.
Civil libertarians have taken issue with the proposal.
Robert Perry, legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said unanswered questions remain regarding testing accuracy and sample contamination, the potential for fraud and abuse by authorities of supposedly incontrovertible evidence and the “fundamental fairness” of providing the accused with equal access to DNA information to try to establish innocence.
Hogan noted DNA is taken only upon the conviction of a defendant, and the sample can be removed from the databank if the person has his or her conviction overturned on appeal.
“There is a process to have the DNA removed [from the DNA databank],” she said after the news conference at the Warren County Municipal Center in the town of Queensbury.