New Law Expands Access to DNA Testing and Discovery for Defendants
Albany, NY (March 22, 2012)
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy today joined Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour, Niagara Falls Police Department Superintendent John Chella, City of Lockport Police Chief Lawrence Eggert and Niagara Police Department Chief H. James Suitor to hail Governor Cuomo's recently passed law that expands the New York State DNA Databank and helps make communities in Niagara County safer.
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo was joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to sign the historic bill into law making New York the first state in the nation with an "All-Crimes" DNA law.
"When Governor Cuomo unveiled the next steps in his plan to build a New New York, he proposed expanding the state's DNA Databank to transform our criminal justice system," Lieutenant Governor Duffy said. "During my law enforcement career, I saw how DNA had the power to convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent and exclude individuals from suspicion – often in the earliest stages of an investigation. By expanding our DNA Databank we have taken a huge step forward in making New York a safer place for all of our families."
New York State's Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer said, "Expanding the DNA Databank ensures that science, not luck, will be the method by which we prevent and solve crimes. For years, countless New Yorkers were victimized because less than half of convicted offenders were required to give a DNA sample. Now that loophole has been closed. By passing the DNA bill, we have ensured that victims will have justice, that New Yorkers will be protected from crimes, and that the wrongly convicted will have access to the Databank that can help exonerate them."
Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante said: "New York's DNA Databank has proven to be an invaluable tool in keeping the people of Niagara County safe. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and the State Legislature for taking action. An expanded Databank will give all District Attorneys the ability to identify the perpetrators of crime earlier in their criminal careers and exonerate innocent New Yorkers."
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella, "As the chief of a department, it's my job to ensure that our officers have all the resources they need to investigate and solve crimes. For years, our police work was hindered by the fact that New York was not fully utilizing DNA technology. But thanks to Governor Cuomo, that is about to change. The Expansion of the state's DNA Databank will help our department save resources by narrowing the focus of investigations early on, and help our officers better protect our neighborhoods by identifying serial offenders."
Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said: "DNA evidence has become one of the most important tools we have to fight crime. By expanding the state's DNA Databank, Governor Cuomo has provided law enforcement from around the state the ability to better protect all New Yorkers."
City of Lockport Police Chief Lawrence Eggert said: "Like many police chiefs in New York, I supported Governor Cuomo's efforts to expand the DNA Databank because my community had directly benefitted from its technology. In 1996, the remains of a woman were found. And like many other murders, this case remained unsolved for years until the state's Databank produced a hit in 2000. I have no doubt that an expanded Databank will help bring closure to countless crime victims and their families and help other police officers solve cold cases. "
New York's DNA Databank was created in 1996. Since that time, the Databank has helped prosecutors solve nearly 2,900 crimes. DNA evidence has also helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers.
Beginning on October 1, 2012, DNA samples will be collected from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor. The law is not retroactive and does not apply to children involved in Family Court matters or to youthful offenders. Also, first-time offenders convicted of low-level marijuana possession will not be required to provide a DNA sample.
The new law will make the following reforms to the state's criminal justice system:
- "All Crimes" DNA Expansion: Previously, state law only permitted DNA to be collected from 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. As a result, New York State missed important opportunities to prevent needless suffering of crime victims and failed to use a powerful tool that could be used to exonerate the innocent.
- Expanded Access for Certain Criminal Defendants to DNA Testing: This legislation will allow defendants charged with specified crimes who were convicted after a guilty plea access to DNA testing to demonstrate their innocence. Additionally, criminal defendants will be allowed to request a court order to compare crime scene evidence against the State's DNA Databank. Together, these reforms will help to ensure that innocent defendants are not convicted or, if convicted after a plea, are able to demonstrate their actual innocence.
- Expanded Access to Discovery for Certain Criminal Defendants After Trial: In limited circumstances, defendants will be able to seek discovery of property 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
The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany can process 10,000 DNA samples from convicted offenders a month. The Governor's proposed expansion will bring the monthly total to less than 7,000 and will not create a backlog.