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Early collection of prisoner DNA samples will help solve cold cases

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contact: Sara Wurfel
P: 517-335-6397 E: 

LANSING, Mich. - Prisoners will be required to provide DNA samples at the beginning of their sentence instead of just before being released under a new law approved by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, requires collection of a prisoner's DNA sample within three months of incarceration, which will help police solve cold cases sooner by giving them the ability to match samples to other unsolved crimes, identify suspects and then interrogate prisoners while they are still in custody.

"This is really no different than taking fingerprints," Snyder said.  "There may be convicted criminals who are locked up in prison right now who are responsible for other unsolved crimes.  Thanks to Senator Tonya Schuitmaker's leadership on this issue, detectives will have the ability to locate these people sooner, which will bring relief to victims of violent crimes and their families."

Collecting DNA samples from prisoners is nothing new.  The state began collecting samples in 1994, but the law as currently written does not require prisoners to provide a sample until they are released on parole, placed in a community placement facility or discharged after serving their full sentence.  With this change, prisoners incarcerated on or before June 1, 2011 will have to provide a DNA sample by the end of this year, and prisoners incarcerated after that date will have to provide a sample within 90 days of the start of their prison sentence.

The state is already authorized to take DNA samples by force if a prisoner is unwilling to provide one. 

In addition to the comfort that identifying suspects may bring to victims, Schuitmaker said taxpayers can also expect to see significant cost savings.

"It costs about $10 for a cotton swab DNA test.  Compare that to the cost in terms of time, effort and money it takes to investigate cold cases, and this reform just makes sense," Schuitmaker said.  

The legislation is now Public Act 127 of 2011.

The governor also signed two other bills today:

House Bill 4584, sponsored by state Rep. Paul Opsommer, extends the date by which professional employer organizations that provide human resources services must comply with legislation that was approved in 2010.  It is now P.A. 125.

H.B. 4436, sponsored by state Rep. Joel Johnson, requires township treasurers to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the last day local property taxes are due and payable in the summer.  It also specifies that if taxes are due on a weekend or official holiday they do not have to be paid until the next business day.  The bill is now P.A. 126.