WHEN DOES THE STATE HAVE TO FILE 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. Price, 43 P.3d 870 (Kan. Ct. App. 2002).
This case addresses the following issue:
When does the State have to file a Bill of Particulars?
This case explored the question of when the State has to file a bill of particulars. In addressing this question, the court found that decision to require the State to file a bill of particulars was generally up to the trial court, except in such cases where the complaint itself was insufficient to inform the accused of the charges against which he or she must defend. Id. at 874.
In this case, the defendant was charged with one count of aggravated criminal sodomy and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Id. at 873. The victim was seven years old and the stepdaughter of the defendant’s stepson. Id. Frequently, the victim would spend the night at the defendant’s house. Id. Allegedly, the victim saw a sexually explicit program on television and approached the defendant asking him if he would perform sexual acts on her. Id. The defendant stated that he refused the victim’s request but the victim said otherwise. Id. Further, once the victim’s parents found out they reported the activity to Social and Rehabilitation Services. Eventually, the defendant was convicted on all three counts. Id.
The defendant argued that the district court should not have denied his motion for a bill of particulars. Id. In particular, the defendant argued that the complaint was too vague and that it did not allow him to formulate an alibi defense or show lack of opportunity to commit the alleged crimes. Id. at 874. In arguing for a bill of particulars, the defendant quoted Kansas law which stated, “When a complaint charges a crime but fails to specify the particulars of the crime sufficiently to enable the defendant to prepare a defense the court may require the prosecuting attorney to furnish the defendant with a bill of particulars.” Id. at 873. In denying the defendant’s motion for a bill of particulars, the district court had determined that the complaint alleged all of the required statutory elements and was adequate. Id.
The court noted that a bill of particulars served two functions: (1) to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges and the evidence against him or her, thus allowing the defendant to prepare a defense, and (2) to prevent further prosecution for the same offense. Id. at 874. Additionally, the court stated that they were looking to see if the district court overstepped their boundaries in denying the defendant’s motion for a bill of particulars. Id. Further, the court explained that a district court oversteps in denying a motion for a bill of particulars when its actions are uninformed, unrealistic, or unreasonable. Id. According to the court, the decision to require the State to file a bill of particulars was generally up to the trial court, except in such cases where the complaint itself was insufficient to inform the accused of the charges against which he or she must defend. Id.
In sum, the court found that the complaint, together with the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing and obtained through discovery, provided the defendant with enough information to defend the charges against him. Id. Further, the court could not say that the district court overstepped in denying the defendant’s motion for a bill of particulars. Id.