12. Bill of Particulars

Rule 7(f) of The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a defendant may obtain a “bill of particulars” if the charges filed are not framed with sufficient detail to enable him to prepare a defense or protect himself against possible double jeopardy. Accordingly, if an indictment is so vague as to objectively prevent preparation of an adequate defense or to enable a defendant to plead either an acquittal or conviction as a bar to future prosecution for the same offense, the Court may require the Government to furnish the additional detail (bill of particulars) necessary to remove any unfair advantage the Government may have and to ensure that a defendant receives a fair trial. For example, in a conspiracy case where a number of subjects are charged, it may be that a given defendant will receive little or no notice as to how he allegedly conspired with other unknown or unnamed conspirators.

Although a limited amount of discovery may be obtained under Rule 7(f), its primary purpose is to protect defendants from double jeopardy. Moreover, any bill of particulars filed will probably duplicate discovery obtained via Rule 16 requests. Nonetheless, this procedural device may provide a defendant with a modicum of detail not otherwise discoverable.

Next Section: B. The Jencks Act – 18 U.S.C. § 3500

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