New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is proposing a major expansion of the state database of DNA samples to include people convicted of most crimes, while making it easier for prisoners to use DNA to try to establish their innocence. New York now collects DNA from those convicted of about half of all crimes, typically the most serious. The governor would order DNA taken from those found guilty of any misdemeanor, including minor drug offenses, harassment, or unauthorized use of a credit card. It would not cover offenses considered violations, like disorderly conduct. In expanding its database to include all felonies and misdemeanors, New York would be nearly alone; a handful of states collect DNA from some defendants on arrest, even before conviction.
Spitzer also wants mandatory sampling of all prisoners in the state, as well as all of those on parole, on probation, or registered as sex offenders. That expansion alone would add about 50,000 samples to the database, at a cost of $1.75 million. The bill would allow convicts who have pleaded guilty to seek DNA tests that might prove them innocent; some judges now decline such requests. Some civil libertarians oppose broader collection of DNA samples. “Because DNA, unlike fingerprints, provides an enormous amount of personal information, burgeoning government DNA databases pose a serious threat to privacy,” said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union.