Under Article I, section 12 of the Utah Constitution, “In criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right … to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him [and] to have a copy thereof.” The Utah Supreme Court has previously explained that Article I, section 12 requires “that the accused be given sufficient information ‘so that he [or she] can know the particulars of the alleged wrongful conduct and can adequately prepare his [or her] defense.'” The requirements of Article I, section 12 naturally extend to UPUAA charges, and defendants charged under the UPUAA must be given sufficient notice of the charges against them.
In State v. Bell, the Utah Supreme Court determined that the State had failed to give Mr. Bell sufficient notice of the particulars of the RICE (the UPUAA’s predecessor) charges against him. The first question facing the court was “whether the indictment was itself detailed enough to give Bell sufficient notice of the charges.” To this the court responded:
The indictment merely repeated verbatim the broad, vague language of the RICE statute without describing any facts or circumstances constituting the crime charged other than a statement that the crime had been committed during a ten-month period. This indictment met the minimal standards 105*105 of rule 4(b) … but by no stretch of the imagination did it provide Bell with sufficient notice of the facts underlying the charges to enable him to prepare an adequate defense.
The next question was whether Mr. Bell had “exercised his right to seek more particular notice by requesting a bill of particulars under rule 4(e) and , this preserved his claim for error. There the court determined:
Bell did submit a timely request that the State provide a bill of particulars describing the factual basis for the element of racketeering activity and specifically explaining “what enterprise is alleged as being involved.” Therefore, under rule 4(e), the State had the burden of providing an adequate bill of particulars.
Finally, the court was left to answer whether the State had met its burden, and if the State had not whether trial court’s failure to enforce the notice requirement was prejudicial. The court started by addressing the State’s conduct, finding that the State had not met its burden:
Although Bell persistently objected to the inadequacy of the bill of particulars, the State refused to amend or supplement the bill as it would have been permitted to do under rule 4(e). The State failed to meet the burden of notice imposed on it by rule 4(e), and the trial court’s failure to enforce this requirement was clearly error under the plain language of rule 4(e), as well as the standards described in Fulton.
Satisfied that the State had not met its burden and that it was error for the trial to court not to enforce the notice requirement upon the State, the court turned to the question of whether the trial court’s error was harmless or prejudicial. There the court determined:
Our review of the record leaves us unconvinced that Bell did in fact receive adequate notice through these convoluted means. None of the sources pointed to by the State explicitly laid out the three enterprise theories later presented at trial. Nor do we think that the three allegations are necessarily implicit in these sources of information, even when they are taken as a whole. Thus, the State has failed to meet its burden.
Also, we think it important to clarify that we reject the implication of the State’s argument: that the State, having failed to provide even a minimally adequate bill of particulars despite persistent requests from Bell, can excuse that failure under the guise of harmless error by claiming that Bell had pretrial access to a mass of various items of information from which, one can conclude in hindsight, Bell could have gleaned the State’s theories for the essential elements of the crimes charged. For this Court to accept such an argument would not only vitiate the specific requirements of rule 4(e), it would negate the accused’s constitutional right, implemented by rule 4(e), to “have a copy” of a document setting out in clear terms “the nature and cause of the accusation.”. A defendant, having complied with the procedural requirements of rule 4(e) in requesting a bill of particulars, ought not to have to look beyond the indictment or information and the bill of particulars to obtain sufficient notice of the specific allegations to be faced at trial.
The State has not met its Knight burden of persuading this Court that the failure to provide an adequate bill of particulars did not unfairly prejudice Bell’s ability to prepare and present a defense. Therefore, we reverse Bell’s conviction and remand for a new trial with instructions that Bell be given an adequate bill of particulars.
The court’s decision in Bell makes clear that a UPUAA defendant needs to be put on sufficient notice of the charges against him or her, and that the State may not just simply repeat the UPUAA verbatim in its charging documents. In addition to the notice requirements placed on the State, the UPUAA also requires civil plaintiffs to plead their claims with particularity. This means that civil plaintiffs must also give defendants sufficient notice of the claims against them, and may not rely on merely conclusory allegations of racketeering activity.