CodeQL documentation

Unreachable catch clause

ID: java/unreachable-catch-clause
Kind: problem
Severity: warning
Precision: high
   - reliability
   - correctness
   - exceptions
   - external/cwe/cwe-561
Query suites:
   - java-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

An unreachable catch clause may indicate a logical mistake in the exception handling code or may simply be unnecessary.

Although certain unreachable catch clauses cause a compiler error, there are also unreachable catch clauses that do not cause a compiler error. A catch clause C is considered reachable by the compiler if both of the following conditions are true:

  • A checked exception that is thrown in the try block is assignable to the parameter of C.

  • There is no previous catch clause whose parameter type is equal to, or a supertype of, the parameter type of C. However, a catch clause that is considered reachable by the compiler can be unreachable if both of the following conditions are true:

  • The catch clause’s parameter type E does not include any unchecked exceptions.

  • All exceptions that are thrown in the try block whose type is a (strict) subtype of E are already handled by previous catch clauses.


Ensure that unreachable catch clauses are removed or that further corrections are made to make them reachable.

Note that if a try-catch statement contains multiple catch clauses, and an exception that is thrown in the try block matches more than one of the catch clauses, only the first matching clause is executed.


In the following example, the second catch clause is unreachable. The code is incomplete because a FileOutputStream is opened but no methods are called to write to the stream. Such methods typically throw IOExceptions, which would make the second catch clause reachable.

FileOutputStream fos = null;
try {
	fos = new FileOutputStream(new File("may_not_exist.txt"));
} catch (FileNotFoundException e) {
	// ask the user and try again
} catch (IOException e) {
	// more serious, abort
} finally {
	if (fos!=null) { try { fos.close(); } catch (IOException e) { /*ignore*/ } }