The governor of New York is proposing a new law that would make the state the first in the country to require convicted criminals to provide a DNA sample.
The controversial legislation, if approved, would give New York the largest DNA database in the country.
According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, less than half of the criminals convicted today in the state of New York are required to submit DNA samples.
"I will propose a bill requiring the collection of a DNA sample from any person convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor," said Cuomo, a former federal prosecutor and New York state attorney general.
The catch for many is the breadth of the proposed DNA program. Meaning, DNA collection wouldn't be limited to those who committed violent crimes like rape or murder, but would also extend to what the state terms "serious misdemeanors" as well. Criminal acts expected to fall under the proposed mandatory DNA collection procedures include graffiti artists, turnstile jumpers, fortunetellers, and individuals who write bad checks.
The NY Governor and District Attorney support the plan, but civil rights groups are against it. Legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, Robert Perry, says people falsely believe that DNA technology is infallible. He calls that the "CSI effect" because DNA evidence on TV shows is typically portrayed with a sense of finality.
Indeed, those who oppose the initiative fear police may find "innocent" DNA at a crime scene for unrelated reasons. As such, law enforcement officials may very well neglect to conduct a proper investigation if a match is identified in the DNA database.
"To have your sample included in the database means you're under surveillance 24/7," Perry said. "If your DNA ends up matching DNA at a crime scene, you now become subject to criminal suspicion, but there are plenty of innocent reasons for folks' DNA to turn up at a crime scene."