Sandoval signs Brianna’s Law
After clearing the state Legislature on its second try, Brianna’s Law became Nevada law Wednesday with the stroke of a pen.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval called it a “historical day” as he signed SB243 into statute with dozens of family members and friends of the law’s namesake in attendance.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for criminal justice in the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously and narrowly cleared the Assembly earlier this month.
The same proposal was killed on the last night of the session two years ago.
“It’s great to be a leader in this,” said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the primary sponsor of the bill. “I have no doubt in my mind that this bill will save lives.”
The new law mandates that felony arrests on or after July 1 of next year include a cheek-swab upon booking.
If the arrest is deemed legitimate, the DNA would be cross-referenced with DNA from other crime scenes to see if the person arrested was involved.
If probable cause is not established, the DNA is destroyed before any cross-referencing occurs.
Opponents contended the policy was an unreasonable search of someone who had not been convicted of a crime. If the policy was to be enacted, non-violent felons shouldn’t be included, they said. Neither argument gained much traction this session.
The law is named after 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 the assault. He is currently on death row.
“I feel more closure,” said Bridgette Zunino-Denison, Brianna Denison’s mother. “I’m just excited we are going to catch these criminals sooner rather than later, hopefully before they are able to hurt other girls.”
The signing comes on the heels of the federal government adopting a similar law last year, and as the Supreme Court deliberates on the Maryland v. King case that challenges the constitutionality of collecting DNA before a conviction.
The actual DNA from the felony arrest is not used to convict anyone of another crime, but rather to give law enforcement a strong lead to make a separate case against someone they believe is connected to other crimes. If no convictions have resulted from the collected DNA after three years, the DNA can be removed from the system if the person arrested completes a request to have it destroyed.