New York CPL 200.50 (6) - Interpretation

In People v. Morris, 61 NY2d 290, 461 N.E.2d 1256, 473 N.Y.S.2d 769 (1984), the Court of Appeals addressed the factors that go into determining the sufficiency of the details of when an offense charged in an indictment took place. The court recognized that CPL 200.50 (6) does not require an indictment to specify the exact date and time, but allows it to be alleged that the offense took place "on, or on or about a designated date, or during a designated period of time." However, the court also noted that, although the language of the statute imposes no limits upon the length of time that may be designated, the People are constrained by a defendant's Sixth Amendment protection against double jeopardy. The court concluded that reasonableness is the standard for a criminal pleading and that the time of the offense may be stated in approximate terms provided it is not an essential element of the offense (id. at 295). Where defendant makes no claim that "the People knew, but purposely failed to allege the most particular date and time possible" (id. at 296), the Court of Appeals set forth a two pronged test for the reasonableness and fairness of the time notice contained in the indictment. First, the court must determine whether or not the People conducted a reasonably thorough investigation to ascertain the information needed to provide their best knowledge of the dates and times of the alleged offenses. In making this determination, the court may consider: the age and intelligence of the victim and other witnesses; the surrounding circumstances; and the nature of the offense, including whether it is likely to occur at a specific time or is likely to be discovered immediately (id. at 296). If it is determined that the People's investigation was diligent, the court should then examine the indictment to determine if the time notice is reasonable and: in making this determination, factors to consider might include, but should not be limited to the length of the alleged period of time in relation to the number of criminal acts alleged; the passage of time between the alleged period for the crime and defendant's arrest; the duration between the date of indictment and the alleged offense; and the ability of the victim or complaining witness to particularize the date and time of the alleged transaction or offense. (id. at 296).