Monday, February 09, 2009

Further Definition of Appropriate Notice Pursuant to People v. Sedlock

In an on-going effort to further define what constitutes a sufficiently narrow time-frame in an indictment for sex offenses (or other course-of-conduct crimes), the Fourth Department decided People v. Rodney Adams. In Adams, the court held that a two or three month time-frame was permissible by stating:
"the time frames set forth in the indictment, i.e., June 1, 2003 through September 30, 2003 and September 1, 2003 through November 25, 2003, were " sufficiently specific' in view of the nature of the offense and the age of the victim" (People v Dickens, 48 AD3d 1034, 1035, lv denied 10 NY3d 958)."
This hearkens back to to the language of People v. Sedlock which dismissed an indictment for failure to narrow an allegation that sexual misconduct took place over the course of seven months. Given the age (17) and normal intelligence of the victim, the allegations should have been more specific. In so holding, the Court of Appeals said:
"Exact dates for incidents that occurred years before were provided, yet the People failed to specify a more precise time frame for the conduct at issue, or to demonstrate that they were unable to do so. Under these circumstances, seven months cannot be deemed reasonable when weighed against the imperative notice rights of the defendant."
Note the language stating that the government failed to demonstrate it was unable to delineate a more narrow time frame. The Indignant Indigent believes that this is in invitation for defense practitioners to ask for a hearing anytime the government claims that it cannot more narrowly state the time frame of a given offense. This hearing would test the victim's capacity to remember dates and events surrounding the allegations and would give the court the opportunity to evaluate whether the victim has the capacity to more specifically delineate the allegations.