Criminal Justice Commissioner Pushes for DNA Database Expansion
State prosecutors are being urged by a state criminal justice official to require everyone who pleads guilty to a misdemeanor in New York to submit a DNA sample.
Acting Commissioner Sean Byrne of the state’s Criminal Justice Services sent a letter to the state’s 62 district attorneys asking that they enact the new mandate. Byrne has been pushing for lawmakers to require the taking of DNA samples from everyone convicted in New York of a misdemeanor or felony. That initiative failed in the legislature.
Changing Plea Agreements
If the district attorneys accept Byrne’s proposal, DNA tests will become part of all plea agreements involving people pleading guilty to misdemeanor crimes.
According to the Times Union, Byrne says the average offender is arrested 11 times and convicted five times before being convicted of a crime requiring a DNA sample. Currently, 46 percent of all people convicted of crimes in New York must submit DNA samples.
Byrne said there were 42,942 violent offenders arrested across the state last year; 7,554 had at least one conviction that didn’t require the taking of a DNA sample.
DNA Samples Are Widely Required Now
State law now requires virtually all people convicted of felonies to give DNA samples which are then stored in the state’s DNA crime database. Current law requires DNA samples for 35 misdemeanors.
Byrne said the list of 35 misdemeanors wrongfully excludes those convicted of aggravated harassment, single counts of arson and unlawful dealing with a child, among other crimes.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares and Schenectady County DA Robert Carney both told the Times Union that they will require DNA samples from defendants who enter into plea agreements on misdemeanors. Others are expected to follow suit.
New York’s DNA database was created in the mid-1990s.