June 7, 2010 By John Gramlich
Reprinted courtesy of Stateline.org
Like most states, New York collects DNA from those convicted of serious criminal offenses. But Governor David Paterson (pictured) wants to dramatically expand the practice to include those convicted of almost all offenses, including misdemeanors.
Paterson announced the proposal at a Manhattan press conference last week, where he was flanked by victims' advocates and representatives from the state's law enforcement community. Supporters of the plan believe it will help solve and prevent crime, as DNA samples collected at crime scenes can be compared with those in the state's offender database, leading to suspects.
Critics of the proposal are uneasy over the privacy implications of the state collecting and saving tens of thousands of DNA samples, and they worry that human error - including in busy crime labs -- could result in innocent people being accused of new crimes, the (Rochester) Democrat and Chronicle reported.
If the rest of the country is any indication, however, concerns over civil liberties in the debate over DNA collection usually are outweighed by the possibility of solving cold cases and preventing new crimes. At least 21 states already go further than New York and collect DNA from certain offenders who are simply arrested for crimes -- rather than convicted of them -- according to DNAresource.com, a site that breaks down state DNA collection laws. Under arrestee sampling laws, those who are not convicted can have their DNA samples destroyed later. In March 2008, as Stateline reported, only 12 states had authorized arrestee DNA sampling, underscoring how quickly such legislation has spread.
At least 15 states, meanwhile, already collect DNA from those who are convicted of certain misdemeanors, rather than just felonies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.