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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 07 June 2011

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- A work session Sunday by the Senate Judiciary Committee left lawmakers considering new amendments to a DNA collection bill that raise both racial and financial concerns.

Previous discussion surrounding AB552 -- known as Brianna's Law -- has centered on whether taking DNA samples from felony suspects is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search.

Earlier debate also has focused on whether the state's labs could handle the resulting influx of DNA, exacerbating an existing backlog of samples that have yet to be profiled and uploaded to a national crime database.

But the issues of race and cost came up with an NAACP request that would add a racial profiling study to the measure. The cost of such a study -- which would be similar to one lawmakers approved in 2001 to review the impact of traffic-stop legislation -- has not been determined.

Richard Boulware, vice president of the Las Vegas NAACP chapter, said the 2001 assessment ``found significant discrepancies in stops and arrests and searches and handcuffing by race.'' Boulware said Nevada needs to ensure the same discrepancies are not present with DNA sampling practices. The bill focuses on felony arrests, but because many such arrests could begin with traffic stops, Boulware said, the earlier study is an important gauge.

The Latino Democratic Caucus -- known as Si Se Puede -- supports the NAACP request, said Vicenta Montoya, the group's chairwoman.

Montoya also raised concerns over racial profiling. She said the bill's requirement that police submit Social Security numbers along with DNA samples could make the measure a tool for anti-illegal immigration enforcement. She said this raises potential for distrust between citizens and law enforcement.

The cost of the profiling study along with a proposal to reduce a fee intended to help pay for implementation of Brianna's Law prompted Judicial Committee members to send the bill to the Finance Committee for consideration.

An earlier plan would have added a $2.50 fee to every citation -- including traffic violations and parking tickets -- to help pay the estimated $6 million cost of starting the program. A proposal raised Sunday would reduce that fee to $2.

If the bill clears the money committee and is amended, it would be put up for a Senate floor vote. If the revised version were to clear the Senate, the bill would have to be put up for a second Assembly vote, during which legislators would have to accede to the Senate's changes or meet to hash out differences.

Legislators have until 1 a.m. Tuesday to complete business for this session.

Brianna's Law is 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. Current law requires DNA samples only after conviction.


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