Brianna’s Law needs a chance
January 29, 2013
We recognize the dilemma Assemblyman Jim Wheeler finds himself in when it comes to Brianna’s Law, which was proposed after kidnapping, rape and murder of Brianna Dennison.
The law, which failed to pass the Legislature in its final days, would have allowed law enforcement to take a DNA sample as part of the booking process, just as they now take fingerprints and a mug shot.
Dennison’s assailant was arrested in 1996 on an unrelated charge and if the law had been in effect then, his DNA would have been on file. A computer search after one of two previous rapes would have turned up his DNA and Brianna’s name would be on a college graduation list now, instead of a proposed law.
The constitutional question of whether DNA is more invasive than fingerprints, or having a mugshot may still be up in the air.
Civil libertarians say it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself.
On the other hand, people leave DNA pretty much everywhere they go. A prisoner in a cell leaves skin and hair behind at minimum. When we shake hands or sneeze, we broadcast our DNA to the four winds.
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As a member of the Assembly Justice Committee, Wheeler has an opportunity to read the bill in its original form and even suggest changes. We hope that one thing that’s made clear is that stored DNA would only be used to identify a suspect. Once identified, police and prosecutors will have to go through the same process they do now to prove to a jury that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.