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DNA - A Prosecutor’s Practice Notebook Inventory

John Doe Warrant

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Picture of a stick figure man with the caption 'State v. Dabney'
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

The uniqueness of DNA profiles allows prosecutors to seek criminal complaints and arrest warrants based on an unnamed suspect’s DNA profile.  In 2000 a Wisconsin prosecutor attempted to preserve jurisdiction in a sexual assault case by issuing a “John Doe” DNA arrest warrant. Wis. Stat. §968.04(3)(a)4.  The Wisconsin prosecutor reasoned that the court would accept a DNA profile as identification of the person to be arrested.

Three days before the applicable statute of limitation was set to run in a 1994 sexual assault case, a Wisconsin prosecutor filed a “John Doe” warrant based on the perpetrator’s DNA profile.  Approximately 3 months later, a cold hit identified “John Doe” as Bobby Dabney, a Wisconsin inmate.  Dabney was subsequently convicted at trial.  In 2003 the Wisconsin Appellate Court upheld the conviction holding that the DNA warrant and criminal complaint were sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction, and the case was commenced before the statute of limitations expired [State v. Dabney, 663 N.W.2d 366; 2003 WI App. 108; 264 Wis.2d 843 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003)].

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