Statement of Particulars
What does the Prosecutor have to prove? How does this help my criminal case?
By: Kenneth Rhoden, Esquire (a Supreme Court Death Penalty Qualified Criminal Attorney)
In Florida, the document formally charging a Defendant with a crime is called an Information. Any skilled criminal defense attorney will scrutinize an Information to find ways to attack the Information document and its claims. One way to attack an Information is to file a Motion for Statement of Particulars.
In a Motion for Statement of Particulars, you are asking the court to order the State Attorney or prosecutor to disclose more specifically what facts the State will attempt to prove that constitute a crime.
For example, an Information can charge that a crime was committed on a particular day, say May 10, 2020, or an Information can charge a crime that was committed between two dates, months, or even years apart. For a particular day, a Defendant may have an alibi defense. This means if a Defendant is charged with committing a crime on May 10, 2020 but he can show he was in another location on that day then he has an alibi defense. However, if the Defendant is charged with committing the crime sometime between May 10, 2018 and May 10, 2020, it is very hard to have an alibi for every day of that year period.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.140 (n) provides that a defense attorney can file a motion requesting the State Attorney file a, “statement of particulars.” Fla. Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.140 (n), in part, reads, “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.”
In a Florida Supreme Court case, State v. Jefferson, 419 So. 2d 330. (Fla. 1982), the defense attorney requested a statement of particulars. The state attorney responded by filing an amended statement of particulars specifying that the offense occurred “within five hours either side of 1:00 a.m. on June 21, 1977, in Titusville, Brevard County, Florida.” The evidence at trial showed the crime occurred the day before. Nonetheless, the jury convicted the Defendant and the trial court and the Fifth District Court of Appeal refused to dismiss the charges. The Florida Supreme Court directed that the case be dismissed. However, in its opinion the Florida Supreme Court, in a helpful hint to the prosecutors, said that the prosecutor could have simply amended his statement of particulars at trial to avoid the dismissal.
While Rule 3.140(n) is clear and on its face favorable to a defendant, Jefferson and subsequent case law have significantly weakened the Rule. In cases involving sexual offenses against children, Rule 3.140(n) has been so weakened that it is practically non-existent.
In sex cases involving children, courts have approved time spans encompassing several years. The rationale is that children cannot recall or know with specificity when events occurred. Therefore, courts let cases with very wide time frames proceed to trial. No doubt this loosening of the normal rules of evidence has resulted in erroneous convictions.
In Dell’Orfano v. State, 616 So. 2d 33 (Fla. 1993), the Florida Supreme Court declined to hold that a twenty-seven-month time period was too long in a child sex abuse case. Instead, the Court set a procedure where the State must narrow the time periods as much as they reasonably can, and the Defense can then try to show prejudice to their ability to defend the Defendant. In practice, the State will try to keep the time period for the crime as lengthy as possible. The criminal defense attorney should fight back by filing multiple motions for more definite statement of particulars and motions to dismiss. Filing a motion for a statement of particulars is just one of the ways to attack an Information. Filing such a motion is a routine part of the defense in a criminal case.
The attorneys at Rhoden Law Group have decades of experience in criminal defense. We are aggressive criminal defense attorneys who will fight for you. So, if you are searching for, a “criminal defense attorney near me” or, an “experienced criminal defense attorney near me”, please give our firm a call. The initial consultation is always free, you can call or text (321) 549-3162, three locations in Brevard to serve you.