The Assembly Judiciary committee voted 11-2 on Wednesday to advance Senate Bill 243, commonly referred to as Brianna’s Law.
The bill mandates a cheek-swab whenever a person is booked for a felony arrest. If the arrest is deemed legitimate, the DNA would be cross-referenced with DNA from other crime scenes to see if the arrestee was involved. If probable cause is not established, the DNA is destroyed before any cross-referencing occurs.
Some opponents argued the provisions violated the American hallmark, “innocent until proven guilty’” and others called it an unreasonable search.
It cleared the Senate unanimously already and now heads to the Assembly for a vote on the floor.
The actual DNA taken on arrest is not admissible evidence for other criminal charges — it just gives authorities a lead to make a separate case.
The bill’s namesake is Brianna Denison who was abducted and murdered in Reno by James Biela in 2008. Backers argue Denison might still be alive if the law was in place because Biela had a prior felony arrest and had raped two women just months before his assault on Denison. He is currently on death row.
An amendment was adopted to the bill changing the length of time DNA can be kept if an additional felony charge is not filed as a result of the cross-referencing from five years to three. The change also clarifies that cases plead down to a misdemeanor would entail removing the DNA from the system, and it lists specific issues for a subcommittee monitoring the law’s effects to consider.
More significant than adopting that amendment is the fact that two others proposed by critics of the measure were rejected by the committee. One amendment would have only collected DNA from violent felony arrests, but evidence of collecting DNA from non-violent felons leading to murder arrests elsewhere doomed that proposal.
The second amendment sought to have DNA automatically removed from the system when certain criteria were met — an idea many on the committee supported — but the tremendous costs associated with that process made it unworkable, Frierson said.
DNA can still be removed from the system, but it is up to the arrestee to complete that process.
Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, D-North Las Vegas, supported the measure because it could not only catch more criminals and prevent future crimes, but also free innocent people.
“I am hopeful that this information will also be used to exonerate folks serving time for crimes they never committed,” she said. “Hopefully, this will be a link to their freedom.”