Senate passes expansion of DNA database

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The state Senate passed a bill today that would dramatically expand the state’s DNA database for convicted criminals, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the state Assembly to do the same.

The bill, which passed 47-8 in the Senate, would require anyone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor under the penal code to submit a DNA sample to the state’s database, which law enforcement officials say would aid in solving crimes and convicting criminals.

As it stands, the database applies to penal law felonies and 36 specific misdemeanor crimes.

“We all know DNA … exonerates, it convicts. It helps provide closure at times for families, particularly in cold cases,” said Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, one of the bill’s prime sponsors. “It also helps to eliminate, at times, suspects. It is an extraordinarily valuable tool for both prosecution as well as defense.”

But Assembly Democrats are looking for additional protections in the bill, including specific guidelines for collecting DNA samples and the establishment of privacy guidelines. The Assembly passed a bill each of the past two years — sponsored by Codes Committee Chairman Joseph Lentol — that would do that, but it died in the Senate.

The Senate bill would expand the existing DNA database.

“We agree with Chairman Lentol that District Attorneys should not be hiding evidence and that judges should have the ability to order access to the database to prove innocence as well as guilt,” Assembly Democrat spokesman Michael Whyland said in an email.

In a statement, Cuomo called on the Assembly to pass the Senate bill. He had pushed for an expansion of the database in his State of the State address earlier this month.

“This critical crime fighting resource embraces technology to help protect the innocent and convict the guilty,” Cuomo said.

“I call on the Assembly to do the same so I can sign this bill into law immediately.”

Here’s Saland discussing the bill:

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