New York Expands DNA Collection But Balks On Wrongful Conviction Reform
Of the many reasons why accused defendants should seek experienced criminal defense counsel, the growing importance of DNA evidence looms large. Prosecutions for everything from sex crimes to weapons charges frequently depend on genetic testing, and officials nationwide have created state forensic databases to keep a record of DNA samples from people who have been convicted of crimes.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed New York's new DNA database law back in March, he approved a genetic evidence dragnet that commentators are calling the most expansive in the country. The new law requires collection of DNA from all defendants convicted of any crime, including all penal misdemeanors.
In support of the Senate Bill 6733, some legislators argued that people who commit murder, rape and other serious crimes also commit less serious crimes in advance. Due to collection of DNA from all individuals convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor, crime solving and prevention will gain an edge.
The political wrangling over New York's new DNA database law did include some concessions, such as an exemption for people who do not have a criminal record before a conviction for minor marijuana possession or smoking in plain view. The law also provides defendants who maintain their innocence with rights to seek exoneration through DNA testing.
However, several provisions that would have better protected defendants from wrongful convictions were stripped from the bill before passage. Important safeguards that did not survive include mandatory videotaping of interrogations by police, as well as "double blind" lineups to ensure that neither witnesses nor police who administer lineups are aware of the of the suspect's identity.
Challenging The Validity Of DNA Evidence
A recent news item pointed out how undependable DNA evidence can be. After news outlets widely reported a connection between the murder of a Juilliard student and Occupy Wall Street participants based on matched DNA samples, news quickly emerged that the sample may have been contaminated at an NYPD lab.
Even the presence of a legitimate DNA sample at a crime scene can trigger a headlong rush to criminal suspicion. People caught in the crosshairs of investigator's interest can discuss an immediate and aggressive defense strategy with an NYC criminal defense attorney.