FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 12, 2023
ALBANY, NY – Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R,C-Staten Island) and Senator Patrick Gallivan (R,C-Elma) announced today the introduction of new legislation to expand the types of evidence accepted by the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center (FIC) in Albany. A5285/S5961 would require the FIC to accept a sample from any firearm, rifle, shotgun, ammunition or magazine loading device for DNA analysis when the sole charge is ‘Criminal Possession of a Weapon’ or ‘Criminal Possession of a Firearm.’
The FIC performs forensic DNA analysis for more than 500 law enforcement agencies, developing DNA profiles from biological evidence to use for comparison purposes, such as to generate investigative leads, identify perpetrators, and exonerate the innocent. Should a suitable DNA profile be developed from crime scene evidence, it may be entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for searching at the local, state, and/or national levels.
Currently, any offender convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor is required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the state’s DNA Databank; however, the FIC generally does not accept DNA testing requests for a firearm removed from an individual’s person where the sole charge is ‘Criminal Possession of a Weapon.’
For instance, if law enforcement pulls over a vehicle with multiple people inside and there is also a firearm located in the vehicle, DNA analysis of the firearm cannot be utilized to identify which individual in the vehicle had possession of the weapon, when the only charge is ‘Criminal Possession of a Weapon.’ Similarly, if law enforcement is pursuing an individual with a firearm and that individual throws their weapon and flees, they may not be authorized to submit a sample from that firearm for DNA analysis to ultimately identify the suspect.
“Allowing law enforcement to submit these items as evidence to the FIC would not only expand the ongoing effort to identify perpetrators of illegal gun violence and hold them accountable, but also help to exonerate some individuals from being wrongfully charged,” said Reilly, who formerly served as a Lieutenant in the New York City Police Department. “Now more than ever, we should be passing laws that empower law enforcement and equip them with the tools necessary to do their job – and this one has the potential to save thousands of lives.”
“In our ongoing effort to reduce gun-related crime, we need to ensure law enforcement has the tools and resources necessary to identify and hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable,” said Gallivan, the former two-term Sheriff of Erie County and a former State Police Captain. “Expanding the use of DNA technology will aid in the prosecution of these violent crimes and help to keep our communities safe.”
At a state budget hearing earlier this year, Reilly shared the premise of his legislation with Steven Nigrelli, the Acting Superintendent of the New York State Police, who signaled that they would be supportive of any effort that helps law enforcement do their job. A video of that exchange can be viewed at youtu.be/qzWSLj5__hE.
This legislation has also received the support from:
Michael McMahon, District Attorney of Richmond County: “Any legislation that provides us with another tool in our crime fighting tool box to combat gun violence and ensure public safety is a win and may help prevent future victims, and so we thank Assemblyman Reilly and Senator Gallivan for championing this effort.”
Paul DiGiacomo, President of the Detectives Endowment Association: “Gun violence is a leading cause of death among young people in New York and across the nation. Ensuring we can link violent criminals to the guns they possess through the latest DNA technology is a common-sense policy that will make our streets safer – for the public and the courageous Detectives who are fighting crime on their behalf.”