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What is the “Rape Shield Law”?

sad-woman-hugging-her-knees-and-cryingRape shield laws have been enacted across the country in an effort to protect victims of sexual crimes during criminal proceedings. These laws prohibit defendants from introducing details of the victim’s past sexual behavior or reputation into evidence.

Throughout history, defendants in sex crimes trials have attempted to smear the reputation of victims. Men and women who have been sexually assaulted have been portrayed as “easy” or having “asked for it” simply because of their sexually active pasts. This type of testimony served to bias the jury. Such bias was shown in a recent case involving a Welsh soccer star.

In the 1970s and 1980s, states began campaigns to protect victims of sex crimes. It was determined that victims experienced embarrassment and humiliation when reported sex crimes and were again humiliated during trials. This embarrassment often prevented victims from coming forward. Knowing that their sexual histories would be fodder for defense attorneys, many victims simply chose to live with their assaults rather than seek justice.

Further, lawmakers realized that the sexual history of a victim had no bearing on a case. What a victim chose to do in their personal life did not make them open to assault. Evidence that was not reasonably related to the alleged crime would no longer be permissible in a trial.

If, however, a defendant’s attorney can show that an alleged victim’s sexual history is relevant, it may be admissible. For example, if the victim has injuries and the defense claims that those injuries were incurred during a recent sexual encounter, that evidence may be allowed. Getting past a rape shield law is difficult for a defendant. This is purposely done so that victims will no longer be frightened in coming forward.

Being charged with a sex crime is a serious event. If you have been charged with rape or sexual assault, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney at your first opportunity. Call our office today for a free case evaluation. A member of our team can advise you of your options and help you make the best decisions as you move forward in the legal process.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.