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Evidence Testing Rights and Results

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Campus

Evidence Testing Rights and Results

Evidence Testing Rights and Results

Under Michigan law, a sexual assault victim has the right to know:

    • When the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (kit) was sent to a crime lab for testing
    • Whether a DNA profile was entered into CODIS (a case evidence database)
    • Whether a DNA profile (DNA evidence) was obtained from the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit
    • Whether a DNA profile resulted in a CODIS hit.

The police agency investigating the sexual assault is required to provide this information to the victim, if available. However, in some circumstances, the police agency may wait to share it if providing the information would somehow impede or compromise the investigation. MCL 752.956.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CODIS?

The Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, is a system of national, state and local databases administered by the FBI. CODIS allows crime labs to compare KIT evidence to DNA profiles from known criminal offenders and arrestees. They can also compare KIT evidence to DNA evidence from unknown suspects in other crimes. CODIS has proven crucial in solving crimes by: Identifying unknown suspects; Linking DNA profiles from more than one crime to find serial offenders; and eliminating suspects.

What is a 'hit' in CODIS?

When a DNA profile is put in CODIS it is compared to offender profiles that are already in CODIS. When a DNA profile is linked to an offender or a different crime scene it is called a ‘hit.’ There are two types of hits: (1) a ‘hit’ to an identified offender; or (2) a ‘hit’ to a DNA profile developed from crime scene evidence where the offender is still unknown.

A ‘hit’ in CODIS does not necessarily mean that the case is solved or that the case will automatically go to trial. DNA is only one piece of evidence in an investigation. If the offender’s name is unknown, a ‘hit’ that leads to an offender identity can be very important. Other times, a ‘hit’ can add to existing evidence and build a stronger case by identifying a serial offender.

Where does the kit go after collection?

If the victim gives permission and signs a form to release the kit, the kit will be given to the police. Police then send the kit to a crime lab for testing. If the victim does not want to release the kit, the healthcare provider must store it for one year. In most cases, a kit stored by a healthcare provider cannot be given to police or tested unless the victim later decides to release it. MCL 752.933.

Does a victim have to pay to have a sexual assault evidence kit collected or tested?

No. It is against the law to require a victim to pay for the cost of collecting or testing evidence in a kit. MCL 18.355a.

Are all released kits sent to a crime lab for testing?

Yes. If a victim has released the kit to police, the police are required to send the kit to a crime lab for testing within a certain period of time, typically two weeks. A crime lab has 90 days to test the evidence. This can take longer if the process involves more than one police agency or the lab has limited resources. MCL 752.934.

Does a victim's DNA go into CODIS?

No. The CODIS database is made up of DNA profiles from individuals convicted of or, in some states, arrested for particular crimes. It also includes DNA profiles of the possible perpetrators from crime scene evidence.

How can a victim find out where the kit is or what the DNA testing results are?

A victim can contact the police investigating the sexual assault. If the police do not provide the information, a victim can contact a local sexual assault program or the prosecutor’s office for assistance. 

What about the DNA profile of a consensual sexual partner?

If the DNA profile identifies a recent consensual sexual partner, rather than the offender, that profile may be removed from CODIS. A victim can talk to the police about this process.

What if there is DNA evidence?

If a crime lab detects enough DNA evidence, it will develop a DNA profile (DNA fingerprint) and enter that DNA profile into a national database called CODIS. A victim has the right to ask if a DNA profile was entered into CODIS.

What if there is no DNA evidence?

Lack of DNA evidence does not mean that the sexual assault didn’t happen. There are many reasons why DNA may not be present. As one example, the offender may not have left any DNA or the offender may have left too little DNA.

DNA evidence is not always necessary for a sexual assault conviction. DNA is only one piece of evidence in an investigation. Other types of evidence include victim and witness statements, pictures of injuries, phone records, and other physical evidence.

What will the crime lab test for?

A scientist will test the samples collected in the kit for DNA evidence. If there is enough DNA in the sample, a DNA profile is developed. A DNA profile is like a fingerprint that can help identify a suspect. In some cases, a DNA profile may also identify the DNA of a consensual sexual partner.