When a defendant is charged with a crime in Iowa, the State must file a Trial Information, which is the formal charging document for all indictable misdemeanors and felonies. The Trial Information must inform the defendant of the name(s) of the crime(s) he or she is charged with, the Iowa Code section(s) defining the crime(s), when the alleged crime(s) occurred, and the elements of the crime(s) charged. The Trial Information must be accompanied by the Minutes of Testimony, which lists the witnesses for the State and a summary of what each witness is expected to testify at trial.
Sometimes, the Trial Information does not contain specific enough information to inform the defendant of the charge(s) against him. In that situation, the defendant may want to file a motion for bill of particulars with the court. A motion for bill of particulars is request for a more specific statement of the details of the crime(s) that have been charged. The bill’s purpose is to provide additional information, which the Trial Information and the minutes do not provide. A court may grant the motion when the charge and the minutes do not inform the defendant of the specific acts he or she is accused of. A motion for bill of particulars is important for the defendant to be able to properly lodge a defense to the criminal charge(s) and to protect against another prosecution for the same offense. A motion for bill of particulars can be particularly helpful in sex abuse cases, especially those involving children.