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Charging defendant by fictitious or erroneous name: Insertion of true name.

A Vegas Defense Lawyer Describes Name Changes in Criminal Proceedings in Nevada NRS 173.105

Name Changes in Criminal Proceedings

When a defendant is indicted or an information is presented to the court to move forward with criminal charges, the state’s pleadings with the court should include the defendant’s name as well as facts about the alleged crime. Sometimes, however, the wrong name or a fictitious name is used. When this happens, it may become necessary to change the defendant’s name after indictment and during the course of the criminal proceedings.

Sometimes, a name change is a straightforward process but in other situations it can become more complicated. Whether the case is a simple one or more complex, defendants need to have a lawyer looking out for them. Defendants have a lot at stake when a prosecutor is pressing charges against them, and even minor procedural issues can make a big impact on the ultimate outcome of a defendant’s case.

At LV Criminal Defense, we understand the procedural rules and we work hard to help clients build both procedural and substantive arguments that could help them to avoid conviction. Contact us to speak with a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer to learn more.

Changing a Defendant’s Name After Indictment

Nevada Revised Statute Section 173.105 sets the rules for when a defendant is charged under the wrong name or under a fictitious name. Under the relevant law, a change can be made once the error is discovered and the defendant’s correct name becomes known. When the correct name of the defendant becomes known, it must be inserted into the subsequent proceedings. When it is inserted, there must also be a reference to the fact that the defendant was charged by the particular name that had been mentioned in the original indictment or information.

This seems simple, and it often is. Sometimes defendants will have aliases, gang names, or stolen identities. When this happens and a defendant is identified and charged but the wrong name is used, a change is made when the correct name is determined and the name change has virtually no impact on the case moving forward.

There are, however, some situations where the legality of a name change becomes a more complex question. This occurs when a John Doe indictment is handed down. NBC 4 reported on one example of a situation where a John Doe indictment was obtained. In this particular case, a women was raped back in 1997 in a violent attack.  The woman underwent an examination and a rape kit was preserved to be tested.  Scientific advances made it possible to test the kit recently and to identify a DNA profile of the woman’s assailant. The identity of the alleged-rapist is not yet known- only the man’s DNA identifies him.

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The statute of limitations is running out on the case, however, which means if charges were not filed, it would become impossible to prosecute the rapist if and when he was found. As a result, prosecutors sought and received a John Doe indictment. The man’s DNA was indicted, and when the rapist is identified, the indictment will be amended to reflect his actual name.

John Doe indictments like this one have been upheld in the past, but their use is controversial and it is not always permitted to essentially invalidate the statute of limitations in this matter.  If you find yourself indicted after the statute of limitations has passed because a John Doe indictment was used, you need to get a good lawyer to argue against your prosecution.

How a Las Vegas Defense Law Firm Can Help

Cases in which prosecutors seek amendments to indictments due to a name change can be complicated but LV Criminal Defense has the legal background necessary to help you protect your rights. To learn more about how we can help you, give us a call today.

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