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What Is a John Doe Warrant?

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What Is an Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is an order by a judge given to law enforcement authorizing a person’s arrest for a crime. The warrant for a person’s arrest can remain active for years. The individual wanted does not have to know about the arrest warrant. Typically, the person only finds out there is an arrest warrant at the time of an arrest.

Can I Be Arrested If the Warrant Does Not Have My Name on It?

Yes. A John Doe warrant is an arrest warrant for an individual whose name is not known. The warrant can be issued by a judge for:

  • A person known by sight, but not by name
  • When crime scene evidence yields the DNA of a suspect

Is a John Doe Warrant Valid in Every State?

No. Prosecutors are not allowed to request a John Doe warrant in every state. In fact, the federal government does not allow this type of warrant.

Why Is This Type of Warrant Allowed in Certain Jurisdictions?

A few states allow this type of warrant because the warrant still provides sufficient description of a suspect in a crime. The description can be used with reasonable certainty to identify the name of the person later.

Is an Outstanding Warrant the Same as a John Doe Warrant?

No. An outstanding warrant is an arrest warrant issued months or years ago for a person’s arrest for a crime. The warrant is considered outstanding because the individual has not been arrest yet, but the police know exactly who the suspect is. A John Doe warrant is for someone who is not known to the police, but is a suspect in a criminal act.

Can a John Doe Warrant Be an Out-of-State Arrest Warrant?

Yes. The warrant for an unknown individual can be issued in a state different than where the person lives. This generally happens if the crime was committed in one state such as Kentucky, but the suspect lives in Tennessee.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a John Doe Warrant?

If you are arrested on a warrant that does not actually have your name on it, you can contest your arrest, as the police may have arrested you based on mistaken identity. Contact a criminal attorney to learn more about your legal rights when being arrested for a crime, especially if the police are using a John Doe warrant to arrest you.

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-11-2015 05:11 PM PST

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