What Does Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law Mean If You Are Charged?
In criminal cases, most testimony that could put the accuser’s testimony in doubt is allowed, but this is limited by law by relevance and factuality. In sexual assault cases, the Rape Shield Law is designed to exclude certain evidence from being elicited by the defense, specifically testimony of the victim or accuser’s sexual history.
The Rape Shield Law prohibits the alleged victim from being questioned regarding their past sexual conduct. Any testimony or evidence intended to demonstrate the promiscuity of the victim is not allowed in court it. This includes any past consensual acts with third parties or histories of partners. Even evidence of a conviction for prostitution in the victim’s past is barred from the courtroom. Pennsylvania courts have deemed it to have no probative value.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. Any evidence of the victim’s prior sexual contact with the defendant is admissible to put into evidence a history of consent. Furthermore, any testimony directly related to issues of consent are permitted. Finally, any evidence tangential to an alleged victim’s sexual history that would otherwise be admitted in court is also allowed by the Rape Shield Law.
What does the Rape Shield Law mean for defendants?
Sex crimes accusations are very complicated, because a lot of issues must be dealt with in a delicate way. Furthermore, a conviction for a sexual assault can seriously damage a person’s life. Defendants need to make sure to hire a criminal attorney experienced in defending cases related to sex crimes, because it takes extensive knowledge of the Rape Shield Law and other related acts in order to successfully find admissible facts and evidence that will support the defense of the client.
The Rape Shield Law does not prevent an attorney from questioning a witness’ credibility using evidence of a sexual nature provided that the questioning sticks to relevant facts and is done in a way that does not badger the witness. They also will do a thorough investigation for prior sexual conduct that would provide an alternative explanation for evidence of sexual contact with the defendant.
While rape is a horrible crime, no one deserves to be convicted of a crime they did not commit based on circumstantial evidence that could not be refuted due to Rape Shield Law provisions. If you have been accused of a sexual assault or another sex crime, contact Pittsburgh criminal lawyers Mike Worgul and Samir Sarna at (412) 281-2146 to discuss your specific case immediately. You should never speak to the police alone, and you can trust the years of experience offered by Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC.