What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in Nebraska?
Rape is one of the most gruesome and yet, 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. As in 2010, a shocking 36.8% of Nebraska’s population had reported forcible rape. 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 several cases, 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 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.
Nebraska put its rape shield law (NEB. REV. STAT. § 28-321 (2010)) in effect on January 1, 2010. The law prohibits the use of any previous sexual history or reputation of the alleged victim as use of evidence in the present case. Like all states, Nebraska has a set of provisions 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, injury, blood, saliva hair or others, in the present case.
- If instances of past sexual behavior with the defendant are being used to establish the possibility of consent in the given case only when court establishes and accepts that previous instances hold a pattern or relevance to the present 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. The court holds the ultimate say in admitting a particular instance as relevant evidence on the present case.
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.