WHAT IS 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. Bischoff, 131 P.3d 531 (Kan. 2006).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is a bill of particulars?
This case explores the question of what is a bill of particulars. According to the court, a bill of particulars serves to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges and the evidence against him or her. Id. at 539. In addition, this information allows the defendant to prepare a defense and to prevent future prosecution for the same offense. Id.
On May 1, 2002, the defendant, a semi-truck driver, flashed his lights, honked his horn, and followed closely behind a driver for the span of eight miles through a construction zone. Id. at 533-34. When the driver got off an exit, the defendant sped up and drove around the driver, nearly hitting her. Id. at 534. After speeding to get around the driver, the defendant abruptly stopped, causing the driver to slam on her brakes. Id. After both drivers were stopped, the defendant got out of his semi-truck and approached the driver. Id. He then pulled on her door handle, yelled obscenities at her, hit her car window, and threatened her life. Id. The driver then began honking her horn and the defendant walked back to his semi-truck and drove away. Id. Eventually, the defendant was found and charged with one count of criminal threat, one count of reckless driving, and one count of following too closely. Id. On July 23, 2002, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or if that did not work, for a bill of particulars. Id. at 534-35. The trial court denied both and a jury trial began eight months later. Id. at 535. In the end, the jury found the defendant guilty of both counts. Id.
The defendant argued that the district court should have required the State to file a bill of particulars. Id. at 539. The court noted that the purpose of a bill of particulars was to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges and the evidence against him, allowing the defendant to prepare a defense, and to prevent further prosecution for the same offense. Id. Additionally, the court referenced State law which stated, “When a complaint, information or indictment charges a crime but fails to specify the particulars of the crime sufficiently to enable the defendant to prepare a defense the court may, on written motion of the defendant, require the prosecuting attorney to furnish the defendant with a bill of particulars. At the trial the state’s evidence shall be confined to the particulars of the bill.” Id. at 539-40.
The court stated that the decision to require the prosecution to file a bill of particulars was generally up to the district court, except in such cases where the complaint itself was insufficient to inform the defendant of the charges against which he must defend. Id. at 540. Therefore, the court looked to see whether the district court abused their power in not allowing a bill of particulars. Id. Moreover, it was up to the defendant to prove that the district court abused their power. Id.
In the defendant’s case, the court found that the defendant could not prove that there was an abuse of power in denying the bill of particulars. Id. According to the court, the record was clear that the defendant was not misled. Id. Furthermore, the court stated that the defendant showed no prejudice to his substantial rights when he was provided no bill of particulars. Id.