Bodiford Law Note: This can be confusing for clients. The piece of paper is named “Information” , Yes, it contains information, but that is also its name. It is like a complaint in a civil action – it is the foundation of a criminal case. The Information is the formal document that the State of Florida uses to allege crimes against a defendant.
Rule 3.140. Indictments; Informations
(a) Methods of Prosecution.
(1) Capital Crimes. An offense that may be punished by death shall be prosecuted by indictment.
(2) Other Crimes. The prosecution of all other criminal offenses shall be as follows:
In circuit courts and county courts, prosecution shall be solely by indictment or information, except that prosecution in county courts for violations of municipal ordinances and metropolitan county ordinances may be by affidavit or docket entries and prosecutions for misdemeanors, municipal ordinances, and county ordinances may be by notice to appear issued and served pursuant to rule 3.125. A grand jury may indict for any offense. When a grand jury returns an indictment for an offense not triable in the circuit court, the circuit judge shall either issue a summons returnable in the county court or shall bail the accused for trial in the county court, and the judge, or at the judge’s direction, the clerk of the circuit court, shall certify the indictment and file it in the records of the county court.
(b) Nature of Indictment or Information. The indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried shall be a plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged.
(c) Caption, Commencement, Date, and Personal Statistics.
(1) Caption. No formal caption is essential to the validity of an indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried. Upon objection made as to its absence a caption shall be prefixed in substantially the following manner:
In the (name of court)
State of Florida versus (name of defendant)
or, in the case of municipal ordinance cases in county court,
City of / County versus (name of defendant).
Any defect, error, or omission in a caption may be amended as of course, at any stage of the proceeding, whether before or after a plea to the merits, by court order.
(2) Commencement. All indictments or informations on which the defendant is to be tried shall expressly state that the prosecution is brought in the name and by the authority of the State of Florida. Indictments shall state that the defendant is charged by the grand jury of the county. Informations shall state that the appropriate prosecuting attorney makes the charge.
(3) Date. Every indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried shall bear the date (day, month, year) that it is filed in each court in which it is so filed.
(4) Personal Statistics. Every indictment or information shall include the defendant’s race, gender, and date of birth when any of these facts are known. Failure to include these facts shall not invalidate an otherwise sufficient indictment or information.
(d) The Charge.
(1) Allegation of Facts; Citation of Law Violated. Each count of an indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried shall allege the essential facts constituting the offense charged. In addition, each count shall recite the official or customary citation of the statute, rule, regulation, or other provision of law that the defendant is alleged to have violated. Error in or omission of the citation shall not be ground for dismissing the count or for a reversal of a conviction based thereon if the error or omission did not mislead the defendant to the defendant’s prejudice.
(2) Name of Accused. The name of the accused person shall be stated, if known, and if not known, the person may be described by any name or description by which the person can be identified with reasonable certainty. If the grand jury, prosecuting attorney, or affiant making the charge does not know either the name of the accused or any name or description by which the accused can be identified with reasonable certainty, the indictment or information, as the case may be, shall so allege and the accused may be charged by a fictitious name.
(3) Time and Place. Each count of an indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried shall contain allegations stating as definitely as possible the time and place of the commission of the offense charged in the act or transaction or on 2 or more acts or transactions connected together, provided the court in which the indictment or information is filed has jurisdiction to try all of the offenses charged.
(4) Allegation of Intent to Defraud. If an intent to defraud is required as an element of the offense to be charged, it shall be sufficient to allege an intent to defraud, without naming therein the particular person or body corporate intended to be defrauded.
(e) Incorporation by Reference. Allegations made in 1 count shall not be incorporated by reference in another count.
(f) Endorsement and Signature; Indictment. An indictment shall be signed by the foreperson or the acting foreperson of the grand jury returning it. The state attorney or acting state attorney or an assistant state attorney shall make and sign a statement on the indictment to the effect that he or she has advised the grand jury returning the indictment as authorized and required by law. No objection to the indictment on the ground that the statement has not been made shall be entertained after the defendant pleads to the merits.
(g) Signature, Oath, and Certification; Information. An information charging the commission of a felony shall be signed by the state attorney, or a designated assistant state attorney, under oath stating his or her good faith in instituting the prosecution and certifying that he or she has received testimony under oath from the material witness or witnesses for the offense. An information charging the commission of a misdemeanor shall be signed by the state attorney, or a designated assistant state attorney, under oath stating his or her good faith in instituting the prosecution. No objection to an information on the ground that it was not signed or verified, as herein provided, shall be entertained after the defendant pleads to the merits.
(h) Conclusion. An indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried need contain no formal conclusion.
(i) Surplusage. An unnecessary allegation may be disregarded as surplusage and, on motion of the defendant, may be stricken from the pleading by the court.
(j) Amendment of Information. An information on which the defendant is to be tried that charges an offense may be amended on the motion of the prosecuting attorney or defendant at any time prior to trial because of formal defects.
(k) Form of Certain Allegations. Allegations concerning the following items may be alleged as indicated below:
(1) Description of Written Instruments. –Instruments consisting wholly or in part of writing or figures, pictures, or designs may be described by any term by which they are usually known or may be identified, without setting forth a copy or facsimile thereof.
(2) Words; Pictures. –Necessary averments relative to spoken or written words or pictures may be made by the general purport of such words or pictures without setting forth a copy or facsimile thereof.
(3) Judgments; Determinations; Proceedings. –A judgment, determination, or proceeding of any court or official, civil or military, may be alleged generally in such a manner as to identify the judgment, determination, or proceeding, without alleging facts conferring jurisdiction on the court or official.
(4) Exceptions; Excuses; Provisos. –Statutory exceptions, excuses, or provisos relative to offenses created or defined by statute need not be negatived by allegation.
(5) Alternative or Disjunctive Allegations. –For an offense that may be committed by doing 1 or more of several acts, or by 1 or more of several means, or with 1 or more of several intents or results, it is permissible to allege in the disjunctive or alternative such acts, means, intents, or results.
(6) Offenses Divided into Degrees. –For an offense divided into degrees it is sufficient to charge the commission of the offense without specifying the degree.
(7) Felonies. –It shall not be necessary to allege that the offense charged is a felony or was done feloniously.
(l) Custody of Indictment or Information. Unless the defendant named therein has been previously released on a citation, order to appear, personal recognizance, or bail, or has been summoned to appear, or unless otherwise ordered by the court having jurisdiction, all indictments or informations and the records thereof shall be in the custody of the clerk of the court to which they are presented and shall not be inspected by any person other than the judge, clerk, attorney general, and prosecuting attorney until the defendant is in custody or until 1 year has elapsed between the return of an indictment or the filing of an information, after which time they shall be opened for public inspection.
(m) Defendant’s Right to Copy of Indictment or Information. Each person who has been indicted or informed against for an offense shall, on application to the clerk, be furnished a copy of the indictment or information and the endorsements thereon, at least 24 hours before being required to plead to the indictment or information if a copy has not been so furnished. A failure to furnish a copy shall not affect the validity of any subsequent proceeding against the defendant if he or she pleads to the indictment or information.
(n) Statement of Particulars. The court, on motion, shall order the prosecuting attorney to furnish a statement of particulars when the indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried fails to inform the defendant of the particulars of the offense sufficiently to enable the defendant to prepare a defense. The statement of particulars shall specify as definitely as possible the place, date, and all other material facts of the crime charged that are specifically requested and are known to the prosecuting attorney, including the names of persons intended to be defrauded. Reasonable doubts concerning the construction of this rule shall be resolved in favor of the defendant.
(o) Defects and Variances. No indictment or information, or any count thereof, shall be dismissed or judgment arrested, or new trial granted on account of any defect in the form of the indictment or information or of misjoinder of offenses or for any cause whatsoever, unless the court shall be of the opinion that the indictment or information is so vague, indistinct, and indefinite as to mislead the accused and embarrass him or her in the preparation of a defense or expose the accused after conviction or acquittal to substantial danger of a new prosecution for the same offense.