New York City’s DNA Database Subject to State Law: Court

Credit: MILLIE GEORGIADIS/INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

By Kevin Deutsch
kdeutsch@bronxjusticenews.com

A Bronx judge has the legal authority to decide whether a man’s DNA can be expunged from a DNA database maintained by New York City, an appellate court ruled Tuesday.

The man, identified in court papers as Samy F., was 16 when he gave Bronx cops a DNA sample following his arrest in a 2015 gun possession case linked to a shooting, court records show. He accepted a youthful offender disposition that ended his prosecution, before a judge could rule on whether to suppress the DNA evidence.

Afterwords, Samy F. filed a motion in Bronx Supreme Court to have his DNA and all records related to it expunged from the database, which is managed by the city’s Medical Examiner’s Office.

The database includes tens of thousands of genetic samples procured by the NYPD, but few details about the city’s collection methodology—or whose DNA is kept on file—have been made public.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Ralph Fabrizio ruled that, while state law allows New Yorkers to request their DNA be expunged from the state database, that same law didn’t give him the authority to decide whether Samy F.’s city-held sample could be expunged.

State law allows citizens to request expungement from that database in certain instances, such as when criminal charges are dismissed. The Appellate Division’s First Department on Tuesday ruled the state law applies to the New York City database, too.

Samy F.’s expungement request will now go back to Fabrizio for a decision.

The city’s DNA database has been largely unregulated until now, and defense attorneys recently sued to stop the NYPD from collecting samples for storage, alleging racial bias.

Legislation currently pending in the state legislature would expunge all DNA samples from local databases, and mandate the maintenance of a single, state-run database.

About Kevin Deutsch 134 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, incarceration, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, and the New York Post, among other publications. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.