State v. Swallow, 14378

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Citation350 N.W.2d 606
Docket NumberNo. 14378,14378
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Harold SWALLOW, Defendant and Appellant. . Considered on Briefs
Decision Date19 April 1984

Page 606

350 N.W.2d 606
STATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee,
Harold SWALLOW, Defendant and Appellant.
No. 14378.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs April 19, 1984.
Decided June 13, 1984.

Page 607

Jon R. Erickson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Pierre, for plaintiff and appellee; Mark V. Meierhenry, Atty. Gen., Pierre, on brief.

William H. Coacher, Sturgis, for defendant and appellant.

DUNN, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction for sexual contact with a child, SDCL 22-22-7, and sexual exploitation of a child, SDCL 22-22-22, 22-22-23. We affirm.

Page 608

Harold Swallow is a sixty-three year old retired civil servant living in Piedmont, South Dakota. In April of 1982, a social worker received anonymous tips alleging that Swallow had sexual contact with three minor children. Following interviews with the children, officers searched Swallow's home, where they found hundreds of photographs of children in various poses. At trial, two young girls testified that they had spent large amounts of time at the Swallow home. While there, they would bathe and change clothes in his presence and have photographs taken while nude or clothed. They also testified that Swallow would feel inside their pants and blouses and touch them through their clothes. Swallow took the stand and testified that while children would often come to his home, he never engaged in any unlawful behavior.

Swallow was convicted, after a jury trial, of one count of sexual contact with a child and two counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The trial court sentenced Swallow to twenty-one years in the state penitentiary.


The first issue raised by Swallow on appeal concerns the sufficiency of the information by which he was charged. He maintains that the information was inadequate for three reasons: 1) Since the information alleged that the offenses took place between October 1981 and March 1982, it violated his right to know with reasonable certainty the charges against him. 2) Count I of the information fails to state a public offense because it cited SDCL 22-22-7 when it should have cited SDCL 22-22-7.1, and it cited SDCL 22-22-7.1 when it should have cited SDCL 22-22-7. 3) The intent elements of the offenses were not pleaded in the information.

With regard to the first contention, a review of the information reveals that it is certainly not precise as to the dates of the alleged offenses. All four counts of the information state that Swallow "did, between October, 1981, and March, 1982," engage in certain prohibited sexual activity with minors. The question to be decided is whether this imprecision regarding dates requires reversal of the conviction.

This court has held on numerous occasions that for an indictment or information to be sufficient, it must contain the elements of the offense charged in order to apprise the defendant with reasonable certainty of the accusation against him, and it must enable him to plead an acquittal of conviction as a bar to future prosecutions for the same offense. State v. Bingen, 326 N.W.2d 99 (S.D.1982); State v. Brown, 285 N.W.2d 843 (S.D.1979). However, when time is not a material element of the offense, the information need not state a precise time at which the offense was committed. SDCL 23A-6-9; State v. Wilson, 40 S.D. 421, 167 N.W. 396 (1918); State v. Sysinger, 25 S.D. 110, 125 N.W. 879 (1910). Here appellant has failed to show that time is a material element of the offense, or that failure to plead a precise time has actually prejudiced him.

We also take note of the nature of the offenses charged, and the fact that they involve minor children. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in dealing with child molestation cases, has stated that although an information should be as specific as possible with respect to time, it is not always possible to know with certainty when the offenses occurred; this is especially true in cases where there is a minor victim who does not immediately complain to the authorities; thus, specificity of time is not always required in the information. State v. Bird, 292 N.W.2d 3 (Minn.1980); State v. Waukazo, 269 N.W.2d 373 (Minn.1978). We find this rationale to be convincing. Therefore, given the ages of the children involved and the time span over which the acts took place, we hold that the dates in the information were sufficient to meet the reasonable certainty requirement.

As for the second contention, it is true that Count I of the information contains an incorrect citation in that it mistakenly cited SDCL 22-22-7 as the definition statute and SDCL 22-22-7.1 as the penal

Page 609

statute, rather than vice versa, which would have been correct. Such clerical errors do not, however, require reversal of the conviction. SDCL 23A-6-4 states that the information shall cite the statute which is alleged to have been violated, but error in citation is not grounds for dismissal of the information or reversal of the conviction if the error did not mislead the defendant to his prejudice. See State v. Layton, 337 N.W.2d 809 (S.D.1983). Here, although a citation error occurred, it is completely obvious to the reader of the information which crimes the State was prosecuting; thus, no prejudicial error occurred.

With regard to the third contention, Swallow argues that...

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  • State v. Steele, 18077
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • September 2, 1993
    ...court has generally considered admission of photographs into evidence. See, e.g., Woodfork, 454 N.W.2d at 337 (citing State v. Swallow, 350 N.W.2d 606, 610 (S.D.1984); State v. Kane, 266 N.W.2d 552, 558 (S.D.1978)). We have stated that the trial court should "weigh the probative value of th......
  • State v. Lodermeier, 17482
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    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • December 2, 1991
    ...we have held failure to set out an essential element of an offense in the charging instrument is not always fatal. State v. Swallow, 350 N.W.2d 606, 609 (S.D.1984). " '[T]he defect is cured if the information sets forth the proper statute, the jury instructions set forth all the essential e......
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