My mom always told me I should’ve been a lawyer. And while I never really considered a career in law, it really isn’t such a bad idea, what with my love of sharks, suit-and-tie apparel, judges, juries, executioners and the like.
Oh, and John Grisham novels, of course.
Sorry, just a feeble attempt on my part at lawyerly humor ... which failed miserably, I’m sure.
Unfortunately for the legal system as a whole, the only careers I’ve ever seriously contemplated involved dinosaurs (hey, I was just a kid), guitars (mmm ... yeah) or writing (and here I am).
Regardless – and considering I now spend a good portion of my time as an Evening Sun reporter in the courtroom – I must admit a more than casual interest in all things related to the law, including Governor Cuomo’s approval of legislation expanding upon DNA-eligible crimes and the collection of DNA samples in relation to such crimes.
This, according to a news brief that came across my desk (err ... e-mail) just yesterday, which states, “Currently, state law only permits DNA samples to be collected from less than half – 48 percent – of the offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. Under the governor’s proposal, DNA-eligible crimes would be expanded to include all misdemeanors under the Penal Law (instead of only 36) and all felonies under other state law.”
Before I go any further with this, I must – ethically and morally – come clean. I do not, as of yet, have all the details on this developing story. For that, I’m afraid, you’ll have to wait for the actual news story (to be found in a forthcoming edition of The Evening Sun).
However, I simply couldn’t, in good conscience, pass up an opportunity to point out the fact that there are a number of misdemeanor crimes which – in all seriousness – do not require their perpetrators submit a DNA sample.
Such as fortune telling. And no, despite my penchant for the occasional jest (see above), I’m not kidding here ... fortune telling ... a crime that is – in reality – just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to each and every misdemeanor crime listed under NYS Penal Law.
Others, you ask? How about attempting to commit a class E felony (so don’t even think about it); possession of burglar’s tools (lose the credit card, baseball bat and/or ski mask); jostling (don’t bump into me in a crowded room); fraudulent accosting (“Hey, Julian, is that you? No? Uh-oh, I’m in trouble”); third degree criminal possession of a forged instrument (throw down the sword); prostitution in a school zone (as opposed to prostitution in general) and, of course, second degree unpermitted use of indoor pyrotechnics (because I’m sure most people actually have an up to date permit for their nightly indoor fireworks show).
And those are only the class A misdemeanors I scrounged up online. Fortune telling is – duh – a class B misdemeanor, as is adultery (like that never happens); creating a hazard (damn, forgot to take care of the garbage can – on a windy day – again) and – last but not least – unlawfully refusing to yield a party line.
Because party lines are so prevalent in this day and age, right?
Seriously, though (and now that I’ve had my fun), the state’s DNA Databank legislation (at least the version that’s been in place since 1994) is a remarkable resource for both the prosecution and the defense when it comes to determining one’s guilt or lack thereof. One has to wonder, however, if this expansion of the current legislation is taking things a bit too far.
In other words, what’s next? A DNA sample for those caught jaywalking? Abusing one’s cell phone? Painting your house that hideous shade of burnt umber? Talking too loud in a public restaurant?
I don’t know, but it does seem a bit totalitarian, if you ask me. And I’m reminded of noted American novelist Sinclair Lewis’ notorious statement that, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
Or maybe Ben Franklin.
“Those willing to trade civil liberties for national security deserve neither.”
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