WHAT INFORMATION GOES IN A BILL OF PARTICULARS?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Wright, 911 P.2d 166 (Kan. 1996).
This case addresses the following issue:
What information goes in a Bill of Particulars?
The court explored the issue of what information must go into a bill of particulars. In exploring this issue, the court noted that a bill of particulars served a dual purpose of informing the defendant of the nature of the charges and evidence against him or her in order to prepare a defense, and of enabling the defendant to avoid further prosecution for the same offense. Id. at 174.
The defendant, a Chief of Police, was charged with eight counts, including criminal threat, stalking, harassment by telephone, and theft. Id. at 169-70. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to dismiss the entire complaint or, if that did not work, five of the eight counts. Id. at 170. Further, the trial court refused to dismiss the entire complaint but did dismiss the five counts. Id. Three of the counts were dismissed because the trial count found that the counts merely concluded the statutory elements without alleging any specific facts. Id. Additionally, two of the counts were dismissed because they did not clearly inform the defendant of the particular acts which violated the statute. Id. at 171. With this said, the State of Kansas appealed from the dismissal of the five counts. Id. at 169. The State’s appeal involved the formation of the five counts, which was a question of law over which the court had unlimited review. Id. at 171.
The court found that the main question of this case was whether the counts sufficiently informed the defendant of what he needed to prepare to defend himself and, if that information was not found, whether the defendant was obligated to request a bill of particulars before asking for dismissal. Id. at 172. In order to address this question, the court went into detail in explaining a bill of particulars. Id. at 173. According to the court, a bill of particulars would only be required in cases where the indictment or complaint did not of itself definitely and specifically set forth the facts, but set them forth only vaguely or in such general terms that the defendant could not well know what he was required to defend against. Id. at 174. Furthermore, the court went on to say that the object or purpose of the bill of particulars was to supplement a sufficient indictment with more specificity of detail to better understand the nature of the charges. Id. Also, the effect of the bill of particulars was to limit the evidence to the transactions set out in the response. Id.
In discussing the usage of a bill of particulars under Kansas law, the court found that a bill of particulars served a dual purpose: (1) to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges and the evidence against him in order to prepare his defense, and (2) to keep the defendant from being prosecuted in the future for the same offense. Id. Furthermore, the court noted that it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove each and every factual statement contained in the bill of particulars. Id. So long as the State proved all of the necessary elements of the particular crime charged, then the evidence was sufficient to convict regardless of whether every statement in the bill of particulars was proved. Id.
In sum, a bill of particulars contains information that supplements a complaint or indictment in order for the defendant to better understand the nature of the charges filed against him or her. Id.