Does the State have to identify the victim of crime in charges? An intransigent prosecution was not rewarded for disobeying the trial court’s order to amend the information by allowing them to proceed to trial on a defective charge. Charges were dismissed for not identifying the victim.
People v. Espinoza, 2014 IL App (3d) 120766 (August).
Defendant and his wife were charged with domestic battery and endangering the life of a child. The information alleged that Defendant gave his son a bloody nose. However, the son was only identified as a “minor”. In bond documents the victim was identified as “D.E.” A bill of particulars was provided that also provided the child’s initials.
The court rejected a plea hearing because of serious concerns of an insufficient complaint. Apparently, 5 kids were named in the report.
Defendant then filed a motion pursuant to Illinois Compiled Statutes section “Form of charge”, 725 ILCS 5/1111-3, asking for the minor to be identified with initials. The State refused to amend the information. The dismissal followed thereafter.
Issue: Does the State Have to Identify the Victim of Crime in Charges?
In Illinois does the State have to identify the victim of crime in the official charges? Were the complaints that did not identify the victim legally sufficient making it an error for the trial court to dismiss the charges?
Where an indictment or information charges an offense against persons or property, as here, “the name of the person or property injured, if known, must be stated [in the charging instrument], and the allegation must be proved as alleged.” People v. Jones, 53 Ill. 2d 460, 463 (1973) (quoting People v. Walker, 7 Ill. 2d 158, 161 (1955)).
A defendant has a fundamental right, as set forth in section 111–3 of the Code, to be informed of the nature and cause of criminal accusations made against him. “If the indictment or information does not strictly comply with the pleading requirements of section 111–3, the proper remedy is dismissal.” People v. Rowell, 229 Ill. 2d 82, 92-93 (2008).
In other words, where the impact of the crime is “focused more directly upon an individual victim than upon society generally,” the identity of the individual victim “is an essential allegation of an indictment charging that offense” (Jones, 53 Ill. 2d at 463)), and the failure to identify the victim in the charging instrument renders it deficient.
Contrary to the State’s suggestion, neither defendant was required to demonstrate prejudice at this stage of the proceedings. “When an indictment or information is attacked for the first time post trial,” a defendant must show that “he was prejudiced in the preparation of his defense” in order to obtain reversal of his conviction based upon an error in the charging instrument.
Here, each defendant challenged the sufficiency of the charging instrument before trial. Accordingly, the defendants were entitled to demand strict compliance with the pleading requirements of section 111-3 of the Code without having to show prejudice.
Court had no choice but to dismiss the charges based on an insufficient complaint.
The State argued that the complaint was less important these days because of discovery. It is true that the defense has other ways of gaining information about the charges brought against hime. This however does not wipe out the State’s obligations under 725 ILCS 5/111-3.