In Colorado, there is a powerful legal tool that’s often misunderstood and underutilized. When you have a defense attorney who’s intimately invested in his or her clients’ rights, they may opt to file a motion for a Bill of Particulars. Let’s take a moment to discuss what this is and how it could help your case if you’re charged with a crime in the state of Colorado.
Common Bill of Particulars Scenarios
In many cases, a favorite prosecution tactic is to file a complaint containing numerous counts where each count contains identical language. This is especially true in sex offense cases.
For example, in a recent case, a client was charged with one count of touching a girl 8 years ago (she is now 21 years old), yet the girl claimed he touched her an “unknown” amount of times. She said in her story that she just could not remember how many times she was touched, but what do you want to bet that her story will change and by the time we go to trial she will change her story and miraculously have a very specific detailed memory? Do you think we will ever learn about all the sessions she has with the State paid counselor? Do you think that counselor stays on the State approved list if she does not “help” the prosecutors?
The defendant, who is overwhelmed by all of the charges, is put in a position of having to guess just what the district attorney is even alleging took place. The numerous counts with repetitive language are extremely difficult to defend against.
The defendant should never be made to face a complaint containing duplicative and repetitive language. In this situation, the defense attorney can strike back by filing a motion for a Bill of Particulars.
What Does a Bill of Particulars Accomplish?
According to the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 7 (g), a Defense Attorney can file a motion for a Bill of Particulars. The purpose of this motion is to compel the district attorney to specifically spell out the underlying details alleged to have been committed within each offense charged. A Bill of Particulars calls for an exposition of the facts that the prosecution intends to prove and limits the proof at trial to those areas described in the bill. Here are some other ways it can help:
- A Bill of Particulars also allows the defense to “properly prepare his or her defense” in terms of a possible alibi, witnesses, times and dates of the accused crime, and other details that aid in the argument of the defense.
- A Bill of particulars allows for the defense to request specific details regarding the case in order to “avoid prejudice surprise.”
- A Bill of Particulars further ensures that a defendant is not made to face multiple counts that in actuality rely on the same alleged act or conduct. A Bill of Particulars helps ensure that the defendant is not twice put in jeopardy for the same alleged act.
When addressing requests for bills of particulars, the trial judge should consider whether the requested information is necessary for the defendant to prepare his defense and to avoid prejudicial surprise. Although the trial judge has discretion in granting or denying a Bill of Particulars, a denial of this motion could be grounds for appeal depending on the specifics of the case.
What a Bill of Particulars Delivers
In order for a defense attorney to properly represent his or her client against a criminal charge, the accused person needs to have some kind of “notice” that gives him or her the chance to prepare. This notice ensures the defendant is not taken by surprise when evidence is presented in the courtroom.
A defense attorney will ask questions about the evidence being presented at trial. When he or she is obtaining a Colorado Bill of Particulars, the defense team should receive an exposition of evidence that the State intends to put forth in court to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is where a Bill of Particulars can be especially useful; the answers can be used to limit the State’s proof.
A Bill of Particulars is not simply a recitation of the State’s case. Rather, it requests only specified, extremely controlled, and highly applicable facts that are necessary for the defense team to properly prepare its case to avoid prejudicial surprise at trial.
A properly drafted Bill of Particulars won’t place a significant burden on the State. Ideally, they can be quickly and easily complied with; the benefits to defendants often outweigh the minimal burden required to answer the requests.
Importance of a Bill of Particular in Sexual Assault Cases
A Bill of Particulars is especially important in sex assault cases where the accused faces more than one count that contains identical language. Obtaining a Bill of Particulars helps the defendant and his attorney secure a fair trial. By knowing the specific details of a crime, your defense attorney will better be able to prepare you and your case to be seen in front of a trial judge as well as a jury of peers.
Requests Are Time Sensitive
But remember, a motion for a Bill of Particulars may be made only within 14 days after arraignment or at such other time before or after arraignment as may be prescribed by rule or order. SO, we have 14 days to get this request in (sometimes they do not even get us the Discovery or police reports within 14 days).
Compare this with the prosecutor who can amend the charges as to form or substance freely at any time before the trial, or possibly during the trial while waiting for VERDICT!
Are you sure this is a level playing field? Play it safe and contact our law office today for a private consultation. A Bill of Particulars may not be needed in your case but it is always best to consult with a lawyer to help you make an informed decision.