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Cuomo urges expansion of DNA harvests as anti-crime tool; civil liberties issues raised


In his State of the State address, Cuomo revised a proposal from former Gov. David Paterson that would effectively allow law enforcement to swab the cheek of anyone convicted of a crime, including any misdemeanor offense under the Penal Law.
The expansion would not include drunken-driving convictions, which are covered by state vehicle and traffic laws.
If it passes, it would more than double the crimes requiring DNA collection and increase by tens of thousands the number of samples entered in the state databank each year

As of November, more than 400,000 DNA samples were stored in the New York databank, which is part of a national database called CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System. According to the governor’s office, Cuomo’s proposal would collect about 7,000 DNA samples a month, but state lab workers can process up to 10,000 samples monthly.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, has raised questions about quality control and human error when dealing with ever-growing numbers of DNA samples.
“It’s essential that there be an equally robust expansion of regulatory oversight and quality assurance to prevent error, fraud and abuse,” said Robert Perry, the NYCLU’s legislative director.
The NYCLU wants state officials to establish an independent task force on DNA, and its tasks should include studying the outcome of investigations that involve DNA and whether due-process rights and privacy are protected. The organization also recommends making the state Commission on Forensic Sciences an independent body with expanded regulatory oversight.
The state DNA databank began in 1996 by collecting samples from killers and certain sex offenders. The number of DNA-mandated crimes has expanded four times since, most recently in 2010, when criminal obstruction of breathing was added to the list of qualifying misdemeanors.
New York is among at least 40 states that do not require DNA from every misdemeanor criminal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California requires all convicts to submit DNA, and most states collect DNA from those convicted of sex-crime misdemeanors.
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