What is a Statement of Particulars?

March 17, 2022 Criminal Defense

Under Florida rules of criminal procedure, a defendant has the right to know of the charges against them with specificity. The document describing the charges generally is referred to as an information or an indictment. An information is a document filed by the State that charges the defendant with a crime and describes the basis for the offense and the arrest. Though an indictment is similar, it is issued by a grand jury after the prosecutor presents evidence to substantiate the charges.

But what happens when the charging document is not sufficient to clearly charge the defendant? In that situation, the defendant has the right to request a statement or bill of particulars. Upon request, the state must provide specificity and clarification on the details of the alleged offense in order to minimize surprise at trial and ensure that the defendant’s constitutional rights are protected.

The Rule

The process of requesting a statement or bill of particulars is codified in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.140. It states in pertinent part:

  • “The indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried shall be a plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged.”
  • “Each person who has been indicted or informed against for an offense shall, on application to the clerk, be furnished a copy of the indictment or information and the endorsements thereon, at least 24 hours before being required to plead to the indictment or information if a copy has not been so furnished. A failure to furnish a copy shall not affect the validity of any subsequent proceeding against the defendant if he or she pleads to the indictment or information.”
  • “The court, on motion, shall order the prosecuting attorney to furnish a statement of particulars when the indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried fails to inform the defendant of the particulars of the offense sufficiently to enable the defendant to prepare a defense. The statement of particulars shall specify as definitely as possible the place, date, and all other material facts of the crime charged that are specifically requested and are known to the prosecuting attorney, including the names of persons intended to be defrauded. Reasonable doubts concerning the construction of this rule shall be resolved in favor of the defendant.”

Additionally, the rule provides for the protocol for when a charging document is defective:

  • “No indictment or information, or any count thereof, shall be dismissed or judgment arrested, or new trial granted on account of any defect in the form of the indictment or information or of misjoinder of offenses or for any cause whatsoever, unless the court shall be of the opinion that the indictment or information is so vague, indistinct, and indefinite as to mislead the accused and embarrass him or her in the preparation of a defense or expose the accused after conviction or acquittal to substantial danger of a new prosecution for the same offense.”

Motion to Compel Statement of Particulars

Pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.140(n), a defendant has the right to move for a statement of particulars in order to get more details regarding the alleged offense. You can request a statement of particulars for a specific count of the information or all counts. There is sufficient caselaw to back up this type of motion, such as:

  • “The rule is well established in this jurisdiction that an indictment should allege every necessary element constituting the offense charged, and no such element left to inference.” Smith v. State, 78 So. 530, 532 (Fla. 1918).
  • “Unless the information or indictment charges the accused with the offense clearly and sufficiently so that he may know the nature and cause of the accusation against him he is entitled to his discharge.” Simpson v. State, 176 So. 515, 517 (Fla. 1937)

The motion will usually request the disclosure of specific information from the State, such as (but not limited to):

  • The date of the offense
  • The location of the offense
  • The circumstances observed by law enforcement that constitute the offense
  • The time of the offense

It is extremely important to request a statement of particulars because once filed, the statement of particulars is the decisive charging document, and the State cannot, over defense objection, seek a conviction based on facts other than those contained in the statement. State v. Beamon, 298 So.2d 376, 378–79 (Fla. 1974).

Motion to Dismiss an Information

A motion to dismiss an information is pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(c)(4). A trial court’s granting of such a motion occurs sparingly. State v. Fuller, 463 So.2d 1252 (Fla. 5th Dist. App. 1985). When considering a motion to dismiss an information, the trial court views all inferences and evidence available in the light most favorable to the prosecution and does not decide any factual issues, decide on the weight given to conflicting evidence, or the credibility of any witnesses. State v. Feagle, 600 So.2d 1236 (Fla 1st. Dist. App. 1992). When viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, it does not need to reach sufficient weight to support a conclusion of guilt or a conviction. Feagle, 600 So.2d at 1239. The state only has to show a “bare” prima facie case because the trial court does not want to prevent the prosecution from their essential function of prosecuting. Id. Additionally, if the state only has circumstantial evidence to present, it is not until trial, after all of the evidence has been presented, that the trial court will evaluate whether it excludes all reasonable hypotheses of innocence. State v. Upton, So.2d 1013 (Fla 5th Dist. App. 1981).

However, if the prosecution officer has in their statement of particulars specified as definitively as possible all material facts known to them to substantiate the charges, and the trial judge opines that the facts alleged do not legally constitute the crime charged, or they affirmatively establish an effective bar to the prosecution, then the motion to dismiss should be granted. State v. Davis, 243 So.2d 587, 591 (Fla. 1971).  

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, contact a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Knowing your rights during a criminal proceeding is essential. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience assisting Florida’s criminal defendants and will fight for your freedom. Give us a call at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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