The Office of Forensic Services and the New York State DNA Databank
The Office of Forensic Services administratively manages New York State’s DNA Databank (Databank) in partnership with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. The office administers rigorous verification procedures to ensure only offender DNA samples that meet eligibility criteria under state law, regulation and/or FBI guidelines are maintained in the state’s Databank.
Presently, any offender convicted of a New York State felony offense or Penal Law misdemeanor is required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the Databank. This requirement applies to anyone convicted on or after August 1, 2012; the law does not apply to juvenile delinquents, whose cases are handled in Family Courts, or individuals granted youthful offender status by the court, which results in their conviction being sealed except in limited circumstances allowed by law. The Databank also includes samples from offenders who provided them under certain circumstances outlined in state regulation.
The Databank also contains forensic DNA profiles that are developed from the analysis of crime scene evidence. The Office of Forensic Services oversees a comprehensive confirmation process that reviews DNA matches linking offenders’ profiles in the Databank to forensic profiles. After match confirmation and offender verification, the office notifies the appropriate agency of the linked offender’s identity. That agency then determines the value of the match, also known as a hit or investigative lead.
The state’s DNA Databank is a part of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), managed by the FBI. Through CODIS, DNA information can be shared among local, state and national databases. Visit the FBI website for more information about the CODIS program.
The following public forensic DNA laboratories that operate in New York State participate in CODIS:
- Erie County Department of Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory
- Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory
- Nassau County Office of the Medical Examiner Division of Forensic Services
- New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Department of Forensic Biology
- New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center
- Onondaga County Center for Forensic Sciences
- Suffolk County Crime Laboratory
- Westchester County Department of Laboratories & Research Division of Forensic Sciences
DNA Databank statistics for New York and other states are available on the FBI website; the information is updated monthly.
The New York State DNA Databank was established by law in 1994 and began operating in 1996. At that time, only offenders convicted of certain offenses were required to provide DNA samples.
The list of crimes that require a DNA sample upon conviction has been expanded five times, most recently in 2012. In addition to requiring DNA samples upon conviction for felony offenses and all Penal Law misdemeanors, the 2012 law expanded a criminal defendant’s access to pre- and post-conviction DNA testing in certain circumstances.
In addition, state regulations permit the release of partial DNA matches that meet certain criteria to law enforcement agencies for investigative purposes and allow law enforcement agencies to request a familial search of the DNA Databank in connection with unsolved, serious crimes. Information in the Databank is protected by state law and by comprehensive internal procedures. The intentional disclosure of a DNA record to an unauthorized person or agency or the intentional use or receipt of DNA records for an unauthorized purpose is a felony.