GENEWATCH
 
TOPIC UPDATE: DATABASE EXPANSION IN NEW YORK
By CRG Staff
 

This past March, New York State enacted S. 6733, "DNA testing of certain offenders convicted of a crime," becoming the first state in the country to adopt an "all crimes" forensic DNA database. Expected to double the size of the current database, this dramatic expansion now allows police in the state of New York to collect DNA samples from individuals convicted of even petty crimes, including loitering, reckless speeding or writing a bad check. The state already collects DNA samples from people convicted of felonies and class A misdemeanors, but Governor Andrew Cuomo successfully claimed that  including people convicted of such minor crimes—for which DNA evidence isn't even relevant—is vital because the bigger the database the better chance of catching a criminal in the future. Despite offering only a handful of anecdotal examples, the Governor received the support of all 62 district attorneys in the state as well as a litany of law enforcement notables and legislative leaders.

Despite active and vocal attempts by several civil society organizations (including the Council for Responsible Genetics) raising the obvious civil liberties issues as well as concerns about an overburdened system and risk of error and fraud, public discussion and criticism were largely ignored. Seemingly emboldened, many other states are moving forward with similar proposals.

 
 
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The use of forensic DNA databases by law enforcement around the globe is expanding at a rate that should be of great concern to civil libertarians.
 
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Rapid developments in biotechnology over the last two decades have enabled corporations and scientists to alter nature's handiwork for commercial profit. The patent, a tool originally created to insure that inventors could share in the financial returns and benefits deriving from the use of their nventions, has become the primary mechanism through which the private sector advances its claims to ownership over genes, proteins, and entire organisms.
 
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