What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in Minnesota?
Rape is regarded as an act of heinous crime all over the world. Thousands of women, men and children are subjected to this disgusting crime, and the United States of America is not an exception to this. There have been several such lawsuits in America where the defense lawyers have tried to make the cases of the alleged rape accusers weak by producing proofs of the latter's past sexual acts. However, the Rape Shield Laws aim to prevent all such actions by mentioning that such past misconducts should not be introduced in the court.
Rape Shield Laws in Minnesota
Almost all States in America, including Minnesota, have defined the Rape Shield Laws to protect the interests of the alleged rape victims in their states.
The court of the state has laid down the following provisions within the scope of its Rape Shield Laws:
Past sexual conduct of the alleged victim will not be produced The court will not admit the defense counsel presenting evidence about earlier sexual acts of the alleged accuser during the proceeding and in front of the juries according to Rule 412 except for certain exceptional situations.
Victim's consent in the rape case
The defense counsel cannot relate to any past sexual behavior of the alleged victim to establish the issue of consent in a given rape case.
Pregnancy or disease
When the case of the prosecution includes proof of pregnancy, disease, or semen during the time the incident supposedly took place or for pregnancy in between the occurrence of the incident and the case, the defense cannot link it to the victim's past sexual history.
While the Rape Shield Laws are in place in the state of Minnesota, it does not necessarily denote that the defense attorney cannot attack the credibility of the alleged accuser in a rape case. It only means that the defense lawyer cannot and should not associate any past sexual background of the alleged rape victim to make a case against her/his or to nullify her/ his accusations.
It is crucial for the defendant to hire a criminal attorney who is a domain specialist and has handled several cases related to sexual assaults and rapes in the past. The said lawyer should be well-versed in the state's Rape Shield Laws and be cautious in not trying to relate any past sexual conduct of the accuser with the current case.
Why have Rape Shield Laws boosted the morale and ease of victims?
When these laws were not in place, the victims were brutally cross-examined by the defense counsel in the court leading to unpleasant verbal exchanges. Often, the past sexual conducts of the victims were cited to show that the accuse had loose moral character and had consented to the physical act. Such incidents led to several rape victims, mostly women, to feel demotivated and hesitant while approaching the court for justice.
However, the introduction of the Rape Shield Laws has changed the picture drastically and for the better. We would also like to play the devil's advocate by stressing on hiring only those lawyers who enjoy a track record in winning rape cases. The late 1970s saw States in America passing their Rape Shield Laws to protect the interests of the alleged rape victims and make their cases stronger in the court of the law.
Discretionary power of the court
When the hearing of the case gets concluded, in fact, the court feels that the proof presented pertaining to the past sexual behavior of the accuser can be admissible within the scope of the state's Rule 412(1), it can order the degree to which such proof can be admissible before the court. In such cases, the accused can then provide proof after getting an order from the court to that effect.