According to California Penal Code 803(g), a “criminal complaint may be filed within one year of the date on which the identity of the suspect is conclusively established by DNA testing” for any sex crime listed under PC 290(c).
When a defendant’s identity is discovered through DNA evidence in a sexual offense case, the statute of limitations may be extended for up to one year from the date on which the identity of the suspect is established through DNA matching.
The prosecutor may file a nameless “John Doe” arrest warrant when DNA evidence exists, but a particular defendant has yet to be linked to the DNA matching. Once a “John Doe” arrest warrant is filed, the one-year statute of limitations extension begins to run for the prosecution.
To better understand this procedural issue, it is important to examine the Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Robinson, 47 Cal. 4th 1104 (2010).
Facts of People v. Robinson
In Robinson, defendant Paul Eugene Robinson was convicted of committing five sexual offenses against Deborah L. on August 25, 1994. To satisfy the applicable statute of limitations under PC 800, the prosecution had to commence within 6 years of the commission of the sexual offenses. On August 21, 2000, only 4 days before the statute of limitations was set to expire, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office filed a felony complaint against “John Doe, an unknown male,” for the sexual offenses committed against Deborah L.
This complaint was based on the DNA evidence recovered from Deborah L.’s medical examination following the sexual offenses. A “John Doe” arrest warrant, relying on the same DNA evidence, was issued the following day. On September 15th, 2000, Robinson was arrested after a DNA match was made through the DNA and Forensic Identification Data Base and Data Bank Act of 1998.
Supreme Court Affirms the Extension of the Statute of Limitations in Sex Crimes Cases
The California Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for all five sexual offenses in Robinson. Specifically, the California Supreme Court reasoned that the statute of limitations is satisfied if the prosecution is commenced by the filing of a “John Doe” arrest warrant within the limitations period. While a “John Doe” arrest warrant does not need to identify the perpetrator’s name, it must identify his or her unique DNA sequence in order to satisfy the “particularity” requirement of an arrest warrant under PC 804(d).
Here, the “John Doe” arrest warrant was filed within the 6-year statute of limitations since it was filed 4 days prior to its expiration. The “John Doe” arrest warrant did not state Robinson’s name, but it did include his unique DNA sequence in order to satisfy the “particularity” requirement of the arrest warrant. As such, Robinson’s arrest on September 15, 2000 and subsequent prosecution were permitted under the one-year statute of limitations extension set forth in PC 803(g).
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