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New York State Passes DNA Requirement For Almost All Convicted Criminals 260

New submitter greatgreygreengreasy writes "According to NPR, 'Lawmakers in New York approved a bill that will make the state the first to require DNA samples from almost all convicted criminals. Most states, including New York, already collect DNA samples from felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. What's remarkable about the New York bill is that it would expand the state's database to include DNA from people convicted of almost any crime, even misdemeanors as minor as jumping over a subway turnstile.' Gattaca seems closer than we may have thought. Richard Aborn, one of the bill's backers, said, 'We know from lots of studies and lots of data now that violent criminals very often begin their careers as nonviolent criminals. And the earlier you can get a nonviolent criminal's DNA in the data bank, the higher your chances are of apprehending the right person.'"
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New York State Passes DNA Requirement For Almost All Convicted Criminals

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  • Re:The steps. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:45AM (#39378337)

    Here in Scotland, the police take your DNA for speeding and then keep it regardless of conviction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:51AM (#39378439)

    DNA fingerprinting techniques 'can sometimes give the wrong results'
    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1302156/DNA-fingerprinting-wrong-results.html#ixzz1pINb0FPk

    DNA's dirty little secret: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1003.bobelian.html
    Typically, law enforcement and prosecutors rely on FBI estimates for the rarity of a given DNA profile—a figure can be as remote as one in many trillions when investigators have all thirteen markers to work with. In Puckett’s case, where there were only five and a half markers available, the San Francisco crime lab put the figure at one in 1.1 million—still remote enough to erase any reasonable doubt of his guilt. The problem is that, according to most scientists, this statistic is only relevant when DNA material is used to link a crime directly to a suspect identified through eyewitness testimony or other evidence. In cases where a suspect is found by searching through large databases, the chances of accidentally hitting on the wrong person are orders of magnitude higher.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:51AM (#39378455)

    Fingerprinting is old and mature tech. DNA profiling is still very new, and not very reliable (when you're talking about 1:300,000,000 error in the most detailed profiling that's currently used, however rarely, that's not very reliable. Even less reliable when you're using 32 markers or even 16, when the error ratio goes down to 1:4,000,000 and 1:100,000 respectively). What makes it *even less reliable* is the absolutely pitiful methods employed to maintain records of custody of samples - cross contamination is a real danger, both in transit and inside the lab. Fingerprints can be a: taken on scene, b: sent through an AFIS terminal and c: matched ON SCENE. The chain of custody is limited to *1* and the possibility of cross contamination of the sample is ZERO.

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:55AM (#39378527)
    Nice comparison arguments...
    Madoff pissed off so many rich, and it was so public that no doubt it lead to where it went.
    Blagojevich is an insane person who somehow got elected, and was Governor of a state that had three other convicted Governors in the past 30 years. So, he was also a message to the government to stop dicking around with Illinois. Oh, and he is guilty.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:04PM (#39378697)
    As usual, this is not the whole story.

    Part of processing your arrest involves taking your biometric identifiers (fingerprints, DNA) and storing them. If you are not charged or are acquitted, you can apply to have your biometric data destroyed, although I understand this process is complex, lengthy, and almost always unsuccessful. This is obviously the wrong way to go about it, but it's the way it is.

    This is being challenged in the ECHR, if I remember correctly. Destruction without request on no charge or acquital would be a start, taking samples only upon conviction much better. However, it's all "to prevent terrorism" or "to protect the children", so I'm surprised they don't ask for an actual pound of flesh.
  • Re:Horrible argument (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:12PM (#39378833)

    There is a book "Three Felonies a Day". From the Amazon description "The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:53PM (#39379429)

    They already collect DNA samples from every infant born in New York State! This is done under a regime of genetic disease testing. However, the records are kept and not destroyed. At some point in the future, I expect this database and the criminal database to be linked (if they are not already).

    When my child was born, I tried to opt out and the hospital said it was mandatory. The state requires it. More info here: http://www.wadsworth.org/newborn/services.html

  • Re:My first thought: (Score:5, Informative)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:01PM (#39379551) Homepage
    Probably not far enough from the truth :(

    A bit of me almost wishes they'd just require DNA from everyone and try and get it over with. Either the populace would finally fight back and reclaim some rights or we'd give up the illusion of privacy and at least get some of the benefits that come with that. In the UK you can have DNA taken after being arrested, never get charged and still find it virtually/effectively impossible to get your DNA off of the database.
  • Re:The steps. (Score:4, Informative)

    by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @02:22PM (#39380631) Homepage
    Well, a big problem with this requirement is that DNA isn't sequenced for identification. That's far too expensive (for now), but would allow for accurate identification excluding mosaics and twins (the former is likely underestimated in frequency since it's rarely relevant outside of this sort of analysis).

    The traditional method is to chop DNA at known uncommon sequences so you get several pieces, run them on a gel that separates them according to size, and see if the sizes and number of fragments match-up. This works because humans have a few variable length repeats that vary in size and change with each generation (an over-simplification, e.g. the repeats often expand if the mother has the gene but not the father). Modern DNA analysis is a bit more sophisticated, but the underlying principle is the same.

    So, how frequent are false positives? In an analysis of Arizona's 65,000 inmates [latimes.com] researchers found 122 9/13 matches, 20 10/13, 1 11/13, and 1 12/13. Some of these were relatives but it's hard to say how many given the study was anonymous. So, it's a low rate but not low enough to use as police would like. I'm sure it'd be very easy to find some DNA at a crime scene, run the DNA search, find one person that matches and lives in the area, and arrest them for the crime.

    It's hard to argue that it's a false positive if you live a block from the crime scene and fit the physical description, but merely because people don't understand statistics very well. (E.g. if it turned out to be an 80 year old Chinese lady and not a 20-ish Black guy that resembled the description, then nobody would arrest her.) And, prosecutors are going to argue the one in 108 billion theoretic odds, without any deeper understanding of the statistics and genetics that make false positives more likely.

    Setting aside, for a moment, that I have tons of non-genetics issues with such a law, I must say this is premature. In a few years we'll be able to cheaply sequence DNA and have far more accurate identifications. Furthermore, we may be able to find genes and such that make violent behavior more likely, thus aiding research. So it's illogical to adopt this technology now rather than when it actually works well in a few years. It's not like the military immediately started commissioning Wright flyers as bombers and scouts.

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