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Rape Shield Laws - Research Paper Example

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Rape Shield Laws

Center of discussion in this paper are rape shield laws, court rules or statutes which limit the defendant’s counsel ability to introduce the sexual history, past conduct or reputation of the accuser or victim as evidence during a trial relating to rape. Therefore, rape shield laws can prevent the victim from being discredited by the irrelevant information to the defendant’s innocence or guilt. In the United States, each state and the District of Columbia has a rape shield law applying to criminal cases and a few to civil cases. Rape shield laws apply to both state and federal criminal and civil cases except the certain limited circumstances, such as when the accuser’s consent can be illustrated or when the accused and the accuser have a shared history. Also, the defense may be required to prove that such evidence’s exclusion would amount to violation of constitutional rights of the defendants. Most of these laws were adopted in a bid to combat the practice where the victims are discredited through introduction of irrelevant information concerning their reputation, sexual history or chastity. Most of these laws were adopted in the 1970s; the first rape shield law was passed in the state of Michigan in 1974 and since then all states have enacted one. Even though these laws were popular in the US, they were criticized for violating the rights of the defendant to confront the accuser as enshrined in the Sixth Amendment. It has also been criticized for being overly arduous for the defense, as well as violating civil liberties like the freedom of speech. (Flowe et al, 2007). So, what do rape shield laws do? Commonly, rape shield laws bar the introduction of reputation and opinion regarding the sexual history of the accuser. Additionally, they prove that evidence about victim’s specific sexual conduct is supposedly irrelevant unless such evidence is direct source of disease, pregnancy, or injury that may be an issue in the case, or has relation to particular sexual conduct with the defendant (The National Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011). Rape shield laws in eleven states have an exception which is known a “catch-all” which allows the judge to permit the introduction of evidence of any nature, even those that are normally barred by rape shield laws, if it is necessary to introduce that evidence in order to protect the accused constitutional rights. Various rape shield laws allow the judge to decide if the evidence in question is relevant or not. If it is relevant, the judge determines whether the evidence’s potential prejudicial impact outweighs its relevance, or not. Rape shield laws are relevant in the criminal justice system as they guard against the introduction of irrelevant evidence of the innocence or guilt of the defendant, but which can potentially prejudice the jury against the accuser or the victim (The National Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011). Flowe et al (2007) explain that rape shield laws are important to the victims as they help in ensuring that the rape victims are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness during criminal trial by making sure that the victim is not subject to a public airing about his or her past conduct, sexual reputation, and any other information which might be irrelevant. More importantly, rape shield laws increase the possibility that victims will report rape cases as they will be more likely to come forward to report. If the sexual history of the victims would have been examined or revealed in court as part of rape trial, it is very likely that victims will not report the rape cases with increasing regularity. However, it should be noted that rape shield laws only guard against the introduction of evidence or irrelevant information during trial, but do not protect the victims from publicity prior to the trial. This may probably deter many victims from reporting rape cases. Rape shield laws have been credited for the decreasing ...Show more

Summary

The paper operates mainly based on research questions which can be stated as follows: What do rape shield laws are and what do they do? In short, rape shield laws seek to prevent the victim from being discredited by the irrelevant information to the defendant’s innocence or guilt…
Author : amyschaden
Rape Shield Laws essay example
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