What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in Hawaii?
Rape is one of the most gruesome and still, unfortunately, common crimes around the world. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. With a population of more than 300 million, those numbers speak for a huge population of the US. According to a report from 2003, 1 in every 7 women (14.2%) in Hawaii have experienced a completed forcible rape in their lives. Given the adverse scenario, awareness of laws is essential. Rape Shield Laws are an essential development in the history of laws pertaining to sexual offenses.
Using the sexual history of the victim in a court trial had become a norm, where the consent given by the individual on previous occasions was used as a proof for possible consent in the present case. The tactic was being used successfully for many instances, leading to several rape cases going unreported.
The basic dignity of rape victims is at the center of a rape shield law, introduced in the late 20th century. Michigan was the first state in the United States of America to introduce a rape shield law, followed by most states introducing its own version of the law.
It limits the counsel of the defendant to use the alleged victim's sexual history as evidence or an argument in a rape trial. The law is based on the idea that any person's sexual history is irrelevant to the event of rape crime. The law gained extreme popularity but was also questioned for making the defense more challenging and laborious.
For the criticism it received, every state provided for certain circumstances wherein such evidence could be included in the trial. Depending on the state, the law applies to most situations with an exception where exclusion of such ‘evidence' violates the constitutional rights of the defendant or the previous history establishes the relationship dynamics between the accuser and the defendant.
The law in Hawaii (HAW. REV. STAT. § 412 (2010)) offers three sections. The first section is the essence of the law where it says that
- The reputation of the accuser in regard to sexual behavior cannot be used as evidence in the present case or to show conformity on the part of the accuser.
- Additionally, an instance of past sexual behavior cannot be used as evidence in the present case or to show conformity.
Like all states, Hawaii has a set of provisions in the second section of the law for the use of such evidence.
- If the instance of past sexual behavior with someone other than accused, to be offered as evidence may or may not throw light upon if the accused was the source of semen or injury in the present case.
- If the instance is of sexual behavior with the accused to throw light upon the issue if the alleged victim consented regarding the previous case.
Any defendant wishing to bring such evidence to the court has to file a written motion at least 15 days before the date of the trial along with the required proof. Any inevitable delay requires either postponing the day of trial or having an in-camera hearing on whether the proposed evidence should be made advisable.
Both the alleged victim and the defendant go through substantial humiliation in such cases. Above that, given the brutality that the crime of rape holds against the probable imprisonment of 1 to 15 years if proved guilty, makes it a delicate affair for the court to call a fair judgment while protecting the dignity of the involved parties.