An indictment, to be valid, must provide a Defendant sufficient notice of the charged offense. More specific information about the charges may be obtained later with a bill of particulars. But the indictment, as the official charging instrument, must contain enough information to give notice of the charged offense. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Grimes, M2012-00530-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-22-2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals once again reminds us that the drug-free school zone statute does not have to be specifically cited in a charge for a drug offense before the case can be prosecuted as a drug-free school zone case. It is sufficient to allege that the offense occurred within one thousand feet of the property of a school (or other applicable location).
In the Grimes case, the Defendant was convicted of selling .5 grams of cocaine or more within one thousand feet of an elementary school. He ultimately received a Range II sentence of twenty-five years. The Defendant raised numerous issues on direct appeal. The conviction and sentence was affirmed. Among the Defendant’s appellate arguments were that the indictment was insufficient because it did not specifically cite to the drug-free school zone statute and did not specifically name the school. The Court of Criminal Appeals found no merit to these arguments. They noted they had already concluded in other cases that stating the offense occurred within one thousand feet of a school (or other applicable location) is sufficient to provide notice of a drug-free school offense. They further noted that the name of the specific school would be easily obtained in the discovery process.
For more information regarding sufficiency of an indictment, or for more information regarding drug-free school zone charges and sentencing, contact The Lanzon Firm.