What Are Your Rights? Using DNA Evidence in Animal Cruelty Cases

Man 1: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: Welcome back everyone. TV shows such as CSI and the use of DNA evidence in a courtroom, once considered to be groundbreaking, has become common and almost expected in today’s world of criminal prosecution. Local advocates want to expand the investigative practice of using DNA evidence to now reach cases involving animal cruelty as well. Here to help examine the use of DNA evidence in animal cruelty cases, as well as some other legal causes of action involving our pets is managing partner Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you.

Interviewer: All right. So we’re jumping right into this. What animal cruelty charges do we have here in the state of New York?

Paul: So we live in a great state of New York that actually has very strong animal cruelty laws. So I mean, you cannot own an animal for the purpose of fighting. You cannot injure, torture or kill an animal, or you face a felony with Buster’s Law. And although that’s part of our fabric, that is not true in every state in our country.

Interviewer: I’m glad you bring up Buster’s Law. So how might DNA evidence change the way prosecutors actually approach potential cases under that law?

Paul: Sure. So what happens is, in a criminal case, could be a felony, you are innocent until proven guilty. So you have to have a lot of evidence. And often these crimes are done behind closed doors. They’re done in someone’s home. They’re done in places that they can’t see, and family members might witness it, but reluctant to testify. So what they’re saying is this, “Listen, let’s use some of this forensic stuff that we use in other criminal cases, let’s use them during Buster’s Law.” If it appears that the animal was kicked, let’s look at the boots. Is there DNA? You know, things like that. So they’re trying to get progressive to give the prosecutors more evidence to prosecute.

Interviewer: Ultimately, how do you see all of this playing out?

Paul: Well, I see it’s a great idea. I see what happens is forensic evidence collection as well as state police analysis is expensive, so unless there’s some money that comes with that package, I don’t see law enforcement being able to, or choosing not to, use that means of collecting evidence.

Interviewer: All right. Well Paul, thank you.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Interviewer: Of course, folks at home, if you’re just tuning in this afternoon, and you’d like more information on this, or even Buster’s Law, head over to our website, cbs6albany.com.