By Cameron Knauerhaze
We often hear the term ‘Jane Doe’ or ‘John Doe’, and immediately think about an unidentified body. Turns out, Jane and John are very much alive and named in police reports across the state thanks in part to California Penal Code 293 and Government section 6254. I want to talk about this a bit more to ensure you understand the basics of the law and how it applies to victims of a sex crimes, human trafficking or domestic violence.
In theory, the intent of the law is to protect certain crime victims (mentioned above) from having their name in public record. When a one of these types of victims reports such a crime, the reporting officer or agency has the obligation to tell the victim about 293. It is then a victim can choose to have their name in the report, or to be referred to as a Doe. The law allows the agency the discretion to exercise 293 for minors or victims that are incapacitated (obviously in favor of being a Doe). Does this happen all the time? No. Can mistakes be made and 293 be overlooked? Yes. If this is the case, the earlier the error is caught, the better. Once the report starts to change hands, it is tougher to insure the anonimity of the victim.
If in doubt, always ask the police if you can assert Penal Code 293 or simply ask if your name can be protected in the crime report. Steps like this should provide a little more peace of mind when someone is going through the trauma of being a crime victim. If still in doubt and you feel like you are missing something, contact Crime Survivors Inc. or another credible organization versed in victim rights.
Check the laws in your state or jurisdiction if you are not in California. Most states have adopted the same or similar statutes to protect crime victims.