What is the Rape Shield Law?

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When a servicemember is charged with sexual assault, they are entitled to a fair trial during which evidence can be prevented to support a claim of innocence. However, there are certain things that may not be admitted. Under Military Rule of Evidence 412, commonly referred to as the Rape Shield Law, victims of sexual assault are protected by ruling evidence about their sex life that isn’t strictly relevant to the case as inadmissible. 

For instance, an accuser may work in the adult entertainment industry or dress provocatively, but this is not admissible in court if it is not relevant to a specific accusation. Still, there are exceptions to the Rape Shield Law. 

Proving Someone Else’s Guilt

One exception to the Rape Shield law, in which you may be able to admit evidence about the accused’s sex life is if the evidence is used to demonstrate that someone else, and not yourself, was the cause of the accuser’s physical injuries or of forensic evidence left at the scene, such as semen. 

Demonstrating a Usual Pattern

It’s important to understand that prior consensual sexual acts with the accuser are not in and of themselves evidence that a subsequent sexual assault did not occur. However, evidence that demonstrates that the sexual interaction between you two was no different than the other ones that you’ve shared could be admissible. When the prior interactions are extremely similar to the one in question, they could be admitted as evidence to prove innocence. 

The Question of Relevance

One of the biggest issues surround MRE 412 is that of relevance. Under the law, a military judge must admit evidence if it is relevant to your defense. So, what does it mean to be relevant? You must prove that the evidence you wish to admit is connected to the case in its entirety in order to prove your defense. 

An example that may focus a lot on relevance is evidence about the accuser’s marriage. While such evidence may ordinarily be excluded under MRE 412, if it is relevant, it could be admitted. You may be able to admit evidence about an accuser’s marriage in order to prove that the accuser is worried their spouse will leave if they find out about a consensual sexual interaction. In such a case, the marriage may be relevant as motive to lie. 

The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

The U.S. Government has an interest in obtaining a conviction as soon as possible, as it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible. If you are a military service member and have been charged with a crime under the UCMJ, the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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