Motion for a bill of particulars in a NJ Sex Crimes case
In New Jersey, defense lawyers rarely file a motion for a bill of particulars. While it may be common in other states of Federal court, it is generally not an issue in New Jersey especially because the indictment mostly mirrors the statute. In sex crimes cases however, this motion is more common, especially in child sex abuse cases. Detectives rarely push child victims for great detail. Thus, the indictment may be very broad thus encompassing a wide range of dates and allegations. The case law on this issue provides guidance as to how to handle these issues.
In State in the interest of K.A.W. 104 N.J. 112 (1986) the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the defendant has the right to defend against accusations which includes the need for an indictment to let a person know of what he has been accused but that there is a concern that young children who have been victimized do not normally have specific recall of dates. As a result, upon motion for a bill of particulars, the Court can order the State to reinterview the child. This interview should supply dates or other reference points such as weather, seasons of the year, grade in school or events such as birthdays and weddings. If the State cannot do so, the indictment can be dismissed.
Obviously, a reinterview of the child can pay big dividends for the defense, especially if the child changes the story or if the dates supplied allow for a credible alibi defense. Despite the availability of such a motion, it does not mean that the defendant will get very specific information. In State v. C.H., 264 N.J. Super. 112 (App. Div. 1997), the court held that the child indicating that she was eight years old at the time of the abuse was enough notice for the defendant.