Civil Liberties Union Slams DNA Databank Expansion

March 17, 2012 Updated: August 6, 2012

NEW YORK—After the state Legislature passed legislation that allows police to collect DNA from almost everyone who commits a crime in the state, the New York Civil Liberties Union released a statement denouncing the legislation.

“Any forensics expert will tell you that including genetic samples of every person ever convicted of a misdemeanor in the DNA databank won’t lead to more effective law enforcement, but it will almost certainly increase inefficiency, errors, and abuse,” reads a statement by NYCLU Legislative Director Robert Perry.

Minor crimes should not require people to submit a DNA sample, said the union. The legislation excludes people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana and who have no prior criminal record from having to submit DNA.

“While we appreciate the exception for marijuana possession, the fact is that the same exception should apply to all nonviolent, low level offenses,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

With the passage of the databank extension, the state becomes the first “all crimes DNA state in the nation, by requiring DNA samples be collected from anyone convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor,” according to a statement released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“It is a proven fact: DNA helps solve crimes, prosecute the guilty, and protects the innocent,” said the governor in the statement.

The DNA databank was started in 1996, and has, according to the statement, helped solve more than 2,900 convictions while preventing other crimes and proving innocence. Before this legislation passed, most felonies and some misdemeanors required offenders to submit DNA samples. Under that law, passed in 2006, the state estimated about half of offenders did not have to submit DNA samples.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber