Lawmaker seeks guidance on Brianna’s Law |

Lawmaker seeks guidance on Brianna’s Law

Kurt Hildebrand

Brianna’s Law, which was sought approval after the January 2008 kidnapping, rape and murder of college student Brianna Denison is back up for discussion in the upcoming legislative session and freshman Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, is asking constituents what they’d like to see happen.

“As a member of the Judicial Committee, I will be asked to vote on this issue,” he said. “I ran on a platform of voting in line with my constituents’ wishes regardless of any special interest influence, or even my own feelings on an issue.”

However, Wheeler said he is uncertain how his constituents feel about the law.

“The law would allow police in the state to obtain a DNA sample from anyone who is arrested for a felony, regardless of whether or not they are convicted,” he said. “While this could assist greatly in the identification of suspects sought for outstanding criminal cases, it also is in direct contravention of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Say, for instance, a person is suspected for a crime and arrested. A DNA sample would be taken during the booking process. If, just a few days later, the detectives find the suspect did not commit the crime, his/her DNA would still be kept in the national database forever.”

In the Denison case, the man convicted and sentenced to death, James Biela, was convicted of also raping two other women.

Biela had been arrested in 1996, and members of Denison’s family testified before the Legislature in 2011 that if his DNA had been on file from that arrest, authorities could have traced him after the first reported rape in 2007.

Currently, Nevada authorities can only keep DNA after a conviction.

The law failed to gain approval in the 2011 Legislature and is back with modifications this session.

Denison disappeared from a friend’s couch on Jan. 20, 2008. Denison had family in Carson Valley, and resident Claudette Springmeyer helped in the search for the girl, who was found Feb. 15.

It would be another nine months before a tip from Biela’s girlfriend would result in his arrest and ultimate conviction. The Nevada Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in August.

A bill draft to revise the law was requested in June by now Sparks Sen. Debbie Smith and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Pat Hickey.

Anyone wishing to provide input to Wheeler on the law may contact him by emailing or calling (775) 684-8843. His mailing address is 401 S. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701-4747.

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