LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - Forcing state prisoners to give up their DNA is a potential violation of their constitutional rights, and is something that could cost taxpayers a lot of money, the Michigan Attorney General's Office said.
And that's why the Attorney General's office is working with lawmakers to change the state law.
"What Attorney General (Bill) Schuette would never want to do is allow a flood of frivolous lawsuits from prisoners who don't like how they got their DNA," Attorney General spokesman John Sellek told Target 8.
Cold-case detectives in West Michigan believe state law is clear: That the prison system must take DNA before releasing a prisoner, which they think means they can take it at any time -- long before the prisoner gets out -- and by force, if necessary.
They say the prison system's refusal to take it by force has forced them to exhume the body of a prisoner who refused to provide DNA.
Recently, Michigan State Police had to get a search warrant to obtain DNA from 118 inmates in state prisons in Muskegon -- some by force.
And, cold case investigators say, it delayed justice for a 13-year-old girl who was raped in her Kentwood home -- and whose attacker hid in prison for seven years, refusing to give up his DNA.
"If they were able to take DNA sooner, it would have closed it a lot faster," the victim told Target 8 for an investigation that aired Thursday. "It would have saved a lot of heartache -- a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of people. Not just myself, (but) for my family."
But the Attorney General's Office says the law was never meant to crack cold cases.
"The way the law was written 10 years ago did not contemplate looking backward to collect evidence," Sellek said. "It was looking forward to people who might get released from jail or prison, and how do we make sure we can keep an eye on them after they go, if they commit another crime."
Friday at 6 p.m.: State lawmakers tried, but failed, last year to pass a law they say will end this fight -- and clearly will require all current prisoners to give up their DNA by Dec. 1. They are trying again this year.
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