A major crystalline defect which causes a pn junction reverse leakage current has been identified. A faintish stripe defect (FSD), the main cause of the leakage current, was observed in about 90% of the current leak points of our pn diodes. Double shell pits were observed at the edge of the FSD after molten KOH etching, indicating that the FSD is elongated on a basal plane and crosses the epilayer surface. The FSDs are sorted into several groups in terms of the shapes and arrangements of the etch pits. A cross-sectional TEM image of an FSD shows an eight-hold stacked structure, demonstrating that the defect contains a stacking fault. Etch pit observation after repetitive RIE of an epilayer revealed that FSDs originate both in threading dislocations in SiC substrates and from an SiC epitaxial growth process itself.