Brief Fact Summary. The constitutionality of rape shield laws is discussed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Rape shield laws prohibiting the defendant from examining the victim concerning her prior sexual conduct or reputation are not prohibited by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Constitution), which guarantees the right of the accused to confront his accuser.
Therefore, no legislation, however salutary its purpose, can be so construed as to deprive a criminal defendant of his Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine his accuser and to call witnesses in his defense.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Are rape shield laws, which prohibit the defendant from cross-examining the victim regarding prior sexual conduct or reputation, valid under the Sixth Amendment’s right to confront adverse witnesses?
Held. Yes. Because the probative value of the evidence of prior sexual conduct or reputation does not outweigh the potential for prejudice toward the victim, rape shield laws do not violate the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. However, the defendant may show prior consensual sex if that evidence (i) shows the victim’s unique pattern of conduct similar to the case at hand; or (ii) shows the victim has a motive to fabricate the charges or (iii) may be biased.
Discussion. While rape shield laws are constitutional in criminal cases, rape shield laws do not prevent the defendant from examining the accused about prior sexual conduct and reputation at civil trials.