NYS Seal




Legislation Addressing Wrongful Convictions and the State DNA Database


To receive public comment on various legislative proposals designed to reduce instances of wrongful convictions, as well as legislation proposing to expand the statewide DNA database

Albany, New York

Thursday, May 31, 2007
10:00 a.m.
Hamilton Hearing Room B
Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor

There is a small but persistent percentage of criminal cases in New York and throughout the nation in which convictions have been reversed and defendants released based on evidence of innocence. Recent advancements in the use of DNA technology have helped bring some of these erroneous convictions to light, although not all exonerations involve DNA evidence.

No one benefits when the wrong person is convicted of a crime. An innocent person is imprisoned and the real perpetrator remains at large: unpunished for his crimes and a continuing threat to society. This public hearing will explore the wrongful conviction phenomenon. The Committees expect to hear from prosecutors, legal scholars and other experts with recommendations about how wrongful convictions can be avoided.

New York established a statewide convicted offender DNA database in 1994. Since then, Article 49-B of the Executive Law has been amended several times to require additional categories of offenders to submit a DNA identification sample upon conviction for analysis and inclusion in the statewide DNA identification database. Most recently, the Legislature in 2006 added a requirement that persons convicted of one of more than three dozen misdemeanor offenses, including crimes such as assault, menacing and petit larceny as well as attempts of felony crimes, submit a DNA sample for profiling and inclusion in the database. A related topic at this hearing, then, will be the status of this statewide database, the implementation of the 2006 legislation, and whether additional changes are needed in Executive Law Article 49-B.

Please see the reverse side for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony, and for a description of the bills which will be discussed at the hearing.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committees will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committees would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committees' interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Joseph R. Lentol
Member of Assembly
Committee on Codes

Jeffrion L. Aubry
Member of Assembly
Committee on Correction


  1. There is a small but persistent percentage of criminal cases in which convictions have been reversed and defendants have been freed from prison based on evidence of innocence. The pace of such exonerations has increased in recent years, particularly with the advent of DNA technology. What are the primary causes of such erroneous convictions? Is legislation needed to address this issue and, if so, what should such legislation contain? See, e.g., Governor's Program Bill #29, (S. 5848); Assembly bills A.3687, A.8046, A.8047, A.8048 (Lentol).

  2. Legislation has been proposed to form a study commission to examine the causes of wrongful convictions in individual cases in New York. See, e.g., Assembly bill 4317 (Gianaris) NY Governor's Program Bill #29, sections 6-8 (S. 5848). Is such a commission needed? If so, what should be the powers and responsibilities of the commission? What should be the background and experience of the commission members? Who should appoint these members?

  3. Legislation has also been proposed to ease or alter the criteria for the commencement of civil actions seeking monetary compensation for wrongful convictions in the state Court of Claims. Is legislation needed in this area? If so, what should such legislation contain?

  4. Are the present procedures and/or standards for the collection, cataloguing, preservation and testing of crime scene evidence and other information relevant to criminal prosecutions appropriate? Is legislation needed in this area to help insure that guilty persons are convicted and innocent persons are not?

  5. As of December 1, 1999, New York State required that a DNA sample be collected from every person convicted of a felony sex offense in this state, as well as any person convicted of a misdemeanor for which registration is required under the Sex Offender Registration Act. The DNA submission requirement was expanded again in 2004 (c. 138). Legislation enacted in 2006 (c. 2) requires the collection of a DNA sample from all persons convicted of a felony defined in the Penal Law or of any one of one of more than a dozen New York misdemeanors, including assault, menacing, petit larceny and other crimes.

  6. The 2004 and 2006 laws require the state to collect and analyze thousands of additional DNA samples each month. What has been the impact of enlargement of the database and, in particular, the 2006 law? What regulations and procedures are in place to assure compliance? What would be the effect/ impact of requiring persons convicted of other misdemeanor crimes to submit a sample for the statewide database? Is additional legislation needed in this area?

  7. Governor Spitzer's recent program bill (Program Bill #29, S. 5848) also proposes to alter certain procedures in collateral proceedings brought pursuant to Article 440 of the Criminal Procedure Law. What would be the impact of these proposals? Should these or other changes in CPL Article 440 be enacted?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on Legislation Addressing Wrongful Convictions and the State DNA Database are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Shannel Arrington
Legislative Associate
Assembly Committee on Codes
Assembly Committee on Correction
Room 542 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: arrings@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4313
Fax: (518) 455-4128

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