What is Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law and How Does it Affect Criminal Charges?
If you’ve been charged with rape or another sex crime in Pennsylvania, you might feel like your reputation is up for debate while your accuser’s reputation is left untouched. Due to restrictions under Pennsylvania law, some evidence about an alleged victim’s past is not allowed in your rape defense. Learn more about Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law and how it could impact your sex crime case.
PA’s Rape Shield Law Explained
Like most states in the U.S., Pennsylvania has a “Rape Shield Law” (18 Pa.C.S. § 3104). This law prevents alleged victims of sex crimes from being questioned about their past sexual conduct during trial.
Examples of testimony or evidence that are banned under § 3104 include the alleged victim’s previous consensual acts with third parties, history of partners, or prior convictions they have for prostitution and related offenses.
Simply put, Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law prohibits you – the defendant – from using evidence of your accuser’s alleged promiscuity in your sex crimes defense. You must find other admissible evidence to support your innocence and restore your character.
Criminal Offenses Under the Rape Shield Law
Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law applies to numerous sex offenses, including but not limited to:
- Sexual assault
- Statutory sexual assault
- Indecent assault
- Indecent exposure
- Human trafficking
- Corruption of a minor
- Sexual exploitation of a minor
If you’ve been accused of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, you must consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you adhere to the rules of the Rape Shield Law and choose the most compelling evidence to use in your case.
Exceptions to the Rape Shield Law
Some exceptions to § 3104 allow evidence regarding the plaintiff’s sexual history in court. Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law does not apply to a sex crimes case where the following are true:
- Consent is at issue;
- The evidence relates to the victim’s prior sexual contact with the defendant; and
- The evidence is otherwise admissible according to the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence
However, you must file a written motion and an offer of proof to the court if you want to submit evidence of sexual conduct. If the court decides your motion and offer of proof have sufficient evidence “on their faces” (prima facie), the court will order a private hearing to further determine the relevance and admissibility of your proposed evidence.
What the Rape Shield Law Means for Defendants
The Rape Shield Law ensures all evidence is relevant to a sex crime case and that the alleged victim isn’t discredited based on their sexual history. Exceptions to the law still give you a fair opportunity to defend yourself, but your defense will require a creative and aggressive legal approach.
Sexual assault accusations are complicated and must be dealt with very delicately. It is imperative that you hire an accomplished defense attorney with extensive knowledge of the Rape Shield Law and related statutes so they can successfully find evidence that supports your rape defense. Read on to learn more about your defense options under Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law and how our lawyers can help.
Sex Crimes Evidence & Defense Options
While there are restrictions on the types of evidence you can use in your defense, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of other opportunities to defend yourself and undermine the prosecution’s case.
Your defense attorney may not be able to attack the victim’s past sexual conduct, but they could bring up other examples of immoral past behaviors. For example, if they have a record of making false rape accusations, we could use this information in your defense to devalue their argument against you and show the jury that their story is unreliable.
Other defense options include claiming the alleged “victim” consented to the act or that you were wrongfully accused. However, every case is different – an insightful attorney can evaluate your case and build the most effective defense against the sex offense allegations you face.
Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Rape Defense Attorney Today
While rape is a horrible crime, no one should be convicted because of a baseless accusation. You deserve a fair chance to protect your future and preserve your reputation from the harm of a conviction. The best way to secure a desirable outcome in your rape case is to hire an experienced and knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorney.
At Worgul, Sarna, & Ness, P.C., our lawyers have decades of combined experience handling even the toughest of sex crimes cases. We have fought to clear the names of countless clients accused of rape in Pennsylvania, adhering to the Rape Shield Law without limiting our clients’ defense options. With Worgul, Sarna, & Ness, you can feel secure in knowing you have the best possible defense to fight your rape charges in Pittsburgh.