What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in New Hampshire?
Rape Shield Law
The rape shield law is a law constituted to protect victims of rape from interrogation or cross-examination regarding their past sexual behavior. The law also shields victims against the use of any such evidence of their past sexual behavior that may be available to make conclusions regarding the worthiness of the victims’ claim.
The law also offers to the victims of rape protection from the publication of their identity. Under the law, newspapers or media house can under no circumstance disclose the identity of the rape victims during the course of the trial or later, if the accused is convicted of rape. All major countries of the world, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States, have their own Rape Shield Law. Rape Shield Law ensures the victims' of their privacy protection.
By the year1980, almost all states in the United States had enforced the rape shield law in their jurisdictions. The laws, however, vary in terms of scope and time limits of the shield. Studies indicate that New Hampshire has the highest incidence of sexual assault cases in the United States.
Most recently, the sensational Bill O’ Reilly Case had called into question the efficacy of law in protecting the rights of the victim. Bill O’ Reilly was accused of sexually harassing his female co-workers. The case garnered huge support for further strengthening of the Rape Shield Law. The argument being a good number of sexual assault cases go unreported because of the victims' fear of being stigmatized or for their fear of reprisal.
The critics of the law, on the other hand, claim that the law is unfair and declines to the defendant the constitutional right to confrontation. The responsibility of proving that the rape shield protection does not apply in a certain case rests with the defendant.
New Hampshire Rape Shield Laws
- Protection for victims from being subjected to any kind of character assassination in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the victims’ claim.
- Prohibition of public disclosure of the rape victims’ previous sexual behavior or activity.
- Testimony of the victim shall not be required to be corroborated under the law.
- No evidence regarding the victim’s sexual activity with any other person other than the accused in the case is admissible.
- Victim’s failure to show any physical resistance to a sexual assault shall not be inferred as ‘consent’.
- Victim’s manner of dressing at the time of assault shall under no circumstance be admissible as evidence of consent.
- The court shall at the request of a party order exclusion of witnesses, denying them permission to hear the testimony of other witnesses. The court shall, however, not authorize the exclusion of the victim or any other person who is deemed as essential by a party to the presentation of its cause.
- In cases where the victim is16 years of age or younger, parents or any other guardian based on the preference of the victim may be asked to testify or sit with the victim during the trial proceedings.
Rape Shield Punishment in New Hampshire
- Rape and sexual assault in New Hampshire may be listed under one of the three categories: aggravated criminal sexual assault, felonious sexual assault, and sexual assault. Circumstances and severity of the assault determine the statue under which the offender will be prosecuted.
- Aggravated felonious sexual assault will attract a punishment of 10 to 20 or more years of imprisonment and lifelong supervision.
- A person convicted of felonious sexual assault may be awarded a minimum of 1 year or a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.
- If found guilty of sexual assault, the punishment includes maximum imprisonment of 1 year.