John Doe Arrest Warrant Based on DNA Satisfies Statute of Limitations

In People v. Robinson, case no. C044703 (3d Dist. Oct. 26, 2007), the court of appeal holds that a “John Doe” arrest warrant that describes the person to be seized by DNA profile suffices to “commence” a prosecution for purposes of the statute of limitations for a sexual offense.

Penal Code Section 804, subdivision (d) provides that a felony prosecution is “commenced” when “[a]n arrest warrant or bench warrant is issued, provided the warrant names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for an indictment, information, or complaint.” (Emphasis added.)  The DNA profile in this case satisfies the state and federal constitutional requirements that the warrant describe the person to be seized with particularity. Indeed, notes the court, DNA identification is about the only means of identification not subject to alteration, making it most likely to name a unique individual. (The most favorable odds Robinson had for a second person matching the profile were were 1 in 650 quadrillion — that’s 1 in 650,000,000,000,000,000.)