DMI Blog

Ezekiel Edwards

You Take a Banana, We Take Your DNA

As of two weeks ago, New York State law requires that if someone steals a bar of soap from a store, gets arrested, and enters a plea of guilty, he or she must provide a sample of their DNA to the Department of Corrections for the state databank --- and then foot the $50 bill. The same goes for someone charged with misdemeanor trespass, one of the most common (and easily fabricated by the police) misdemeanor charges.

As a result of a bill passed on June 23, 2006 and made effective on August 9, 2006 by the New York State legislature (S. 8446/A.11951), everyone convicted of a felony or one of seventeen different types of misdemeanors must submit DNA samples and pay for the test.

The state alleges that the legislation is necessary to "bolster the New York State DNA Database" and "detect and combat crime", though it is not clear how taking DNA from a mother stealing diapers, and making her pay for it, makes us safer.

Putting aside for now privacy issues, of great concern is that the $50 fee (on top of the standard $160 surcharge) will be a significant financial burden on many people, who must dig themselves a deeper financial hole either by making a $210 payment or by asking that civil judgment be entered against them, thereby ruining or worsening their credit.

By requiring a DNA test following a conviction at arraignments, now many arrestees of non-violent, non-sex-related minor offenses may have to remain in jail until the test is performed instead of being granted immediate release. If someone is arraigned at night for stealing a Snapple, for instance, it could result in her waiting in prison until the following morning for the Department of Corrections to perform a DNA test, whereas before she would have been released from court immediately upon her plea the night before.

If a judge releases someone who has pled guilty for being in the lobby of a building without permission on the condition that the person submit a DNA sample at a later date, and the person refuses or forgets, the person could face up to one year in jail.

People already face disproportionately burdensome collateral consequences stemming from their arrests or convictions for petty offenses; those consequences just became even harsher.

Ezekiel Edwards: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:00 AM, Aug 22, 2006 in Criminal Justice
Permalink | Email to Friend