The Basics of Brianna’s Law

In 2008, Brianna Denison, a 19 year old college student, was kidnapped from a friend's house, raped and murdered.  Although James Michael Biela initially refused to provide a DNA sample, he was ultimately convicted of these and other crimes based on DNA evidence obtained after a warrant was eventually issued for his DNA.

Senate Bill 243, known as Brianna’s Law, is currently being decided in Nevada’s state legislature. If passed, the bill will authorize authorities to collect DNA samples for all felony arrests. The authorities would then have the ability to compare those samples to other samples in a database. While the bill has good intentions, it may also have some very serious drawbacks. Many of the concerns that killed the bill in the 2011 Nevada state legislative session remain in the bill's current iteration.

For example, under the proposed law, DNA samples are not automatically expunged after a felony charge is dropped or the accused is acquitted.  This provision will have the greatest impact on members of the African American and Latino communities, who are disproportionally arrested.

Additionally, the DNA sampling requirement  is imposed on all felony charges — not just violent offenses. That means the police could collect a DNA sample even if someone was arrested for writing a bad check.  It is for these and other concerns of inequality and potential invasions of privacy that organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada are opposing the passage of Brianna’s Law.

Even the accused have certain civil rights that the police must honor. Brianna’s Law may be a severe blow to those rights. Whether or not Brianna’s Law passes, an arrest is a serious issue that demands the immediate attention of a Nevada criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of David R. Houston, we’re here to fight for your freedom.

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