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Bill of Particulars
A written statement used in both civil and criminal actions that is submitted by a plaintiff or a prosecutor at the request of a defendant, giving the defendant detailed information concerning the claims or charges made against him or her.
In civil actions a bill of particulars is a written demand for the specifics of why an action at law was brought. Although usually requested by a defendant, it can be demanded by a plaintiff if the defendant makes a counterclaim for a setoff or asserts a defense against him or her. A bill can be submitted either voluntarily or pursuant to a court order for compliance with the demand. Its function is to give the party who requests it knowledge of what the opposing party has alleged in order to protect the party requesting the bill from surprise and in order to establish the real issues of the action. It also serves to expedite the orderly progress of judicial proceedings by reducing, if not eliminating, the need for the amendment of ambiguous or vague pleadings. A bill of particulars is neither a pleading nor proof of the facts it states, but, rather, an elucidation of a pleading. It is not to be used as a discovery device to learn the evidence or strategy to be used at trial by the opposing party.
State codes of Civil Procedure impose rules that govern the use of bills of particulars in civil actions brought in state court. In federal courts the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have replaced the use of a bill of particulars with a motion for a more definite statement. If, however, the information sought by such a motion is obtainable by use of discovery mechanisms, the motion will be denied.
In criminal law, a bill of particulars serves the same purpose. It is submitted by the prosecution to the defendant, at the defendant's demand, to provide the facts alleged in the complaint or the indictment that related to the commission of the crime. The defendant is given notice of the offenses with which he or she is charged so that a defense may be prepared and the possibility of surprise or double jeopardy avoided. As in civil procedure, a bill of particulars is not intended to serve as a discovery device.
State codes of Criminal Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure regulate the use of bills of particulars in criminal prosecutions in their respective courts.