What is Rape Shield Laws and What are its Punishments in Michigan?
Rape shield laws were introduced starting from the 1970s, into various states in the United States until in 1978; Rule 412 was passed by the Congress. Rule 412 of the Federal Rules of Evidence ensures that rape shield laws are protected on the federal level as well. Rape shield laws are laws designed to protect the victim in a rape trial against having their sexual history brought up before the court. They also cannot be cross-examined on their sexual conduct outside of what is directly relevant to the case.
Such laws were put in place to protect the victim from having their character assassinated, as well as to ensure that the jury does not get swayed. The first rape shield law in the United States of America in Michigan in the year 1974 and this makes the state of Michigan the forerunner in the implementation of these laws. Today over fifty states as well as the District of Columbia all enforce rape shield laws as a way to provide justice to rape victims as well as protect them from arbitrary accusations by the accused.
The reason behind why the victim needs to be defended has to do with the nature of the rape trial. Rape cases tend to be emotional, explosive and put the victim through a harrowing experience by remembering their unwanted sexual encounter. To protect the victim as well as to ensure that the perpetrator receives justice, should they be proved as guilty, the rape shield laws were put into place.
What happens if the rape shield laws in Michigan were broken?
A defendant cannot really break a rape shield law as it is a government mandated rule of the court that cannot be broken without permission from the court. Similarly, breaking a rape shield law can only make the defendant’s case worse and should not be practiced under any circumstances.
However, when facing a Michigan Criminal Conduct Charge, the defendant can offer evidence protected under the rape shield laws should that information hold direct relevance to the case. There are two situations where the court may grant the defendant permission to provide information protected by Michigan’s rape shield laws. These include:1. The defendant can provide information on the victim’s sexual history with permission from the court only in those situations where the information provides important testimony that can lend light to the case at hand. Furthermore, such information cannot be more controversial than an exposition of facts.
If the intent is to sway the jury, or character assassinates the victim, then the rape shield laws hold again. However, if the information is relevant to the case, and the defendant deems it as crucially important in defending their innocence, then they may provide that information. Such information can include evidence of the victim's past sexual encounter with the defendant, as well as specific instances of such activity that can show where semen, blood, diseases or pregnancy could have arisen.
2. The defendant, after informing the court that they would like to offer evidence of nature as mentioned above, has ten days within which they have to file a motion and offer the proof. The court has the power to order an in camera hearing at this point to judge whether the proposed evidence can be admitted into court.
If during the trial, new information is discovered that may make the evidence submitted by the defendant admissible, then the court will again conduct an in camera hearing to judge the nature of admissibility of the provided proof or evidence.
Outside of these situations, it is not possible to go against the rape shield laws in Michigan.