Legislature: DNA collection bill dies

Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal

Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal

A bill to allow police to collect DNA samples when booking someone for a felony arrested died in the Senate Finance Committee late Monday in the waning hours of the Nevada Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas and committee chairman, said while AB552 had "strong merits," it also carried profound implications for privacy rights that were too complex to hammer out before the 2011 session adjourned.

"This is not the type of legislation we can hear for less than a week before the end of the session and fast track. There are very high stakes in this legislation," Horsford said.

Lawmakers were under a deadline to adjourn by 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The bill, named "Brianna's Law," was named for Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped in 2008 while sleeping on a friend's couch in Reno, then raped and killed. James Biela, an ex-Marine and pipefitter, was convicted last year and sentenced to death in Denison's slaying. Biela also was convicted in the 2007 rapes of two other women.

Backers of Assembly Bill 552 argue Denison might be alive today if officers were allowed to take Biela's DNA sample following a separate 1996 arrest. They say police could have used DNA gathered in the first 2007 rape to identify him from the 1996 arrest.

Her family lobbied for the bill. Relatives were in the Finance Committee when its fate was revealed.

"We'll regroup," Denison's aunt told well-wishers.

The bill passed in the Assembly, but opposition mounted during the legislative process. The NAACP feared the bill could disproportionately harm minorities and asked for a study to ensure it would not enable racial profiling.

The study's potential price tag sent it to the money committee. The bill also would have added a surcharge to tickets for everyday violations to raise money to pay for the testing.

Opponents also argued that taking a DNA swab amounts to an unreasonable search, and that it would be difficult for someone to have their DNA expunged from the criminal database if they are not convicted of a crime.


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