Yesterday, New York became the first state in the country that will require anyone convicted of a felony or a penal law misdemeanor to provide a DNA sample for the state’s DNA database. This new law will result in 48 percent of criminal offenders in New York being required to submit a DNA sample.
The law will go into effect October 12, and will apply to even petty crimes like shoplifting. There is an exemption in the law for individuals convicted of possession of a small amount of marijuana. Both individuals convicted of the crimes after a trial and those who plead guilty will be required to comply with the new law.
Since 1996, New York’s DNA database has helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers who were wrongfully convicted of crimes, and has been used to help obtain 2,900 convictions. However, many civil rights groups think the law is unfair, arguing that it won’t have much of an impact on public safety, but will increase the likelihood for inefficiency and abuse in the DNA testing process. Critics also believe there should be an exception for all nonviolent offenses besides the possession of marijuana.
Because of the new law, many more people will be added to the DNA database in New York. If you are convicted of a minor offense in New York, your DNA will be added to the state database. Therefore, it’s important to avoid a conviction if you do not wish for your DNA to be available to law enforcement for an indefinite period of time.