What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in New Jersey?
New Jersey Statute 2C:14-7 codifies New Jersey's Rape Shield law to protect a victim's prior sexual misconduct. The exception to the statute arises if a judge rules that the victim's prior fault is relevant to subsection c. and d. of 2C:14-7. A judge’s ruling can also outweigh that the admission of the exceptions will allow confusion, prejudice, or other issues like the invasion of privacy of the victim. To seek protection under the rape shield law, the defendant has to raise the issue prior to the trial. However, an exception can be made in case new evidence pertaining to the prior misconduct is revealed during the trial.
The admissibility of evidence is possible under the following circumstances:
- In trials involving sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault or bringing danger to the welfare of a child, evidence from trials of prior misconduct of a victim shall not be presented. References to the prior incidents are also not allowed in court during either the trial or the preliminary hearing.
Exceptions can be made if the court approves of it by exercising due diligence. An application has to be made, and it will be up to the court to decide if the evidence can be presented or not. If the court disapproves the admissibility of a particular piece of evidence, it cannot be brought up during the trial from thereon.
For the evidence to be eligible for the ongoing trial, it needs to be presented by the defendant. The evidence also needs to be non-invasive to the privacy of the victim and the nature of questions that will be asked pertaining to the victim needs to satisfy the standards contained in the appropriate sections of the Rape Shield Law.
The evidence can also not be used to raise any prejudice or confusion in court. Any questions surrounding the evidence that does not breach the above requirements can be asked in court, and the victim is expected to answer the questions until the court is satisfied.
- In case any convincing proof is presented that proves the victim’s sexual conduct to be relevant to the ongoing trial, the evidence is dismissed. The evidence presented needs to be less than one year old from the date of the current offense charged in court by the victim.
- Any evidence that reveals previous sexual misconduct shall not be admissible in court even if provided by an expert or lay witnesses until the source of the semen, disease of pregnancy can be proven.
- If a piece of evidence that pertains to the victim’s prior sexual misconduct is considered to be probative, it will be upheld as relevant in court. Also, if the defendant was aware during the alleged offense that the victim allowed the sexual behavior evidence from previous sexual misconduct will be permitted.
- Any evidence that pertains to the dress of the victim at the time the alleged sexual crime was committed will not be considered in court unless. The judge and jury need to be informed about the relevancy of such a scenario and will be allowed if approved by the court. Any such statement surrounding the claims will be included in the court’s records for the trial.
Sexual conduct as defined by for the Rape Shield Laws is considered to by any form of behavior or conduct leads to sexual activity or activities between the victim and the alleged offender and it is not limited to other instances of sexual experiences between both parties or the use of contraceptives, any activity included in gynecological records, lifestyle or living arrangements.