What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in Georgia?
Rape: a heinous crime
Rape and sexual assault are among the most demeaning crimes in society. This is a violent crime that is being perpetrated for centuries. The sad part is that rape is common, and there are nearly a 100,000 rapes every year reported in the USA. An even more worrying statistics is that the victim does not report 60% of sexual assaults due to various reasons. This means that the incidence of rape is much more than what is reported. One in every five women can be a victim of rape.
In view of the seriousness of this crime, governments have passed stringent laws to punish rape. The laws protect the rights of women and impose severe punishment on rapists. During rape trials, many a time, the defense tries to bring in the past sexual history of the victim to try and create a negative impact on the reputation of the victim. This tactic is used to prejudice the jury against the victim. These kinds of incidents lead to situations where women hesitate to report rape cases.
What is the rape shield law?
Therefore, Governments in the USA have passed the rape shield law as a protection for women to prevent their reputation from being tarnished. The rape shield law was first passed in 1974 by Michigan. During the 1970s and 1980s, most of the states in the USA passed similar acts to protect the reputation of rape victims from being tarnished in courtrooms. Georgia too has a rape shield law.
Georgia’s rape shield law
Georgia’s rape shield law is enshrined in OCGA (Official Code of Georgia Annotated) 24-4-412. The statute like the one prevalent in most of the country ensures that evidence related to the sexual history of the victim cannot be introduced in cases. Issues such as provocative dress worn by the victim, number of sex partners of the victim, and such other matters cannot be raised in the court by the defense.
In 2013, the Georgia statute underwent an amendment. Apart from rape, other crimes like statutory rape, child molestations, sodomy, and sexual battery were also included. This was done to protect the rights of the victim and to ensure a fair trial where the jury would not get prejudiced by issues pertaining to the victim’s sexual history.
Exceptions in the law
The rape shield law of Georgia has some exceptions. As per these exceptions, there are certain situations where the past sexual history of the victim can be introduced as evidence by the defense. The instances where this can be done are:
- Where the accused claims that the past sexual behavior involves the accused and that the victim had consented to the act. This can be allowed by the judge based on the facts of the case.
- This exception is not applicable to children and also requires the consent of both parties.
- As per this exception, this evidence cannot be introduced solely to impeach the victim.
- In case, the accused wants to introduce evidence related to the previous sexual history of the victim, then a written motion needs to be filed. Based on this motion, the judge would conduct an in-camera hearing (without the jury) to determine if the evidence is admissible under the provisions of the statute. If the court accepts the motion, then the evidence, as allowed by the court can be introduced.
Punishment for rape in Georgia
In the state of Georgia rape is a felony. If convicted, the accused can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment without parole, or a minimum of 25 years in prison. The accused would also be listed as a sex offender for life.