Rape Shield Laws

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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What Are Rape Shield Laws?

Rape shield laws expressly prohibit or limit the use of evidence of a victim's past sexual history to undermine that victim's credibility. These laws areintended to protect victims from invasions of their privacy, and to encouragethem to come forward without having to fear that their sexual history will beused against them.

What Evidence Will Be Excluded?

Generally, rape shield laws will exclude any evidence that does notpertain directly to the sexual assault case at hand. This evidence can include:

What Evidence Can Be Admitted?

The rape shield laws typically do not exclude evidence directly related to the rapecase at hand. Such evidence can include:

Can Rape Shield Laws Be Used In Civil Lawsuits?

Rape cases are heard by criminal courts. Most states have rape shield laws in place specifically for criminal law trials.

However, plaintiffs are allowed to sue the defendant in civil courts as well for financial compensation as well. Congress has extended rape shield law protection to federal courts hearing civil cases of rape.  A small number of states, either through official legislation or judicial interpretation, have also extended rape shield laws to civil cases. These states include, but are not limited to, Illinois, New Jersey and Nevada.

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Last Modified: 07-10-2012 11:42 AM PDT

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