Monday, January 25, 2010

California Supreme Court OK's "John Doe" Warrants Based Just on DNA

In an interesting decision, the California Supreme Court has upheld an arrest warrant that identifies the target as "John Doe" and merely contains the DNA profile recovered from a crime scene.  On August 21, 2000, prosecutors filed an arrest warrant against "John Doe" and attached the DNA profile from evidence left at a crime scene.  The warrant was filed four days before the expiration of the statute of limitations for the sexual offenses.  If the prosecutors had not filed the arrest warrant when they did, the statute of limitations would have run and they would never have been able to arrest anyone for this offense.  Eventually the DNA was matched to Paul Eugene Robertson and he was arrest and convicted of the sexual offenses.  The Court upheld the arrest warrant and found that the use of the DNA profile in the arrest warrant satisfied the particularity requirements of the law.  The dissenters objected because they felt that the use of the DNA profile was a clever way of getting around the statute of limitations problem and that the arrest warrant was not valid because it did not authorize the arrest of a particular individual.  The individual, in this case Paul Eugene Robertson, was not identified until after the DNA match was made, which was well after the statute of limitations had expired.

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