Nevada Assembly panel advances 'Brianna's law'

A bill that would allow police to take DNA samples from people arrested on serious criminal charges won approval Friday from a Nevada Assembly committee.

The measure - known as "Brianna's Law" - was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

The bill is named in memory of Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old college student who was snatched while sleeping on a friend's couch in January 2008. Her body was found about three weeks later in a vacant lot in south Reno.

James Biela, an ex-Marine and pipefitter, was arrested in November 2008. He was convicted last year of raping and killing Denison and sentenced to death. He was also convicted of raping two other women in late 2007 and sentenced to four life prison terms.

Earlier this week, Denison's family and others testified that if the bill had been law, James Biela may have been captured earlier if officers were allowed to take his DNA sample following a 1996 arrest.

"After his first reported rape in December 2007 they could have matched him to the prior crime and his identity would have been known," Bridgette Zunino-Denison, Brianna's mother, told the committee during a hearing Monday.

Nevada law currently allows police to collect DNA after a person has been convicted.

The proposal would allow police to take DNA swabs when making arrests for felonies, sexual offenses and gross misdemeanors.

The bill was amended Friday to include a provision based on a similar law in New Mexico that allows sampling of anyone who flees jurisdiction after posting bail or bond.

Twenty-four states allow police to collect DNA samples before a person is convicted of a crime. The Nevada bill would allow police to take DNA samples and submit them for genetic analysis if there was an arrest warrant.

The DNA samples would then be included in a national database.

A person can apply to have their DNA samples removed from the state and federal databases under certain circumstances, including not being charged for additional felonies or sexual offenses 10 years after they were arrested and swabbed.

Brianna's Law is AB552.k


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