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Rape Shield Laws

Respected Criminal Defense Law Firm Aggressively Defending the Rights of Clients in Charlotte, Concord and Throughout North Carolina

One of the biggest challenges in defending a North Carolina sex offense case is effectively managing the evidence that comes into the trial. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney to both limit the harmful evidence offered by the prosecution while getting evidence that favors the defendant admitted. Indeed, some rape cases can be won before the trial even begins by limiting the evidence that comes into trial. However, this requires a detailed knowledge of the North Carolina rape shield law, which limits what testimony is considered “relevant” in certain cases involving sexual offenses. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, our dedicated criminal defense lawyers have decades of combined experience aggressively defending clients facing serious sex offenses. We can help you develop a compelling defense, no matter how nature of the allegations you face.

What Are Rape Shield Laws?

A rape shield law is a rule of evidence that limits what many would consider relevant testimony in a rape case. Essentially, rape shield laws prevent a defendant from bringing up an alleged victim’s past sexual behavior, except in limited circumstances. In this context, “sexual behavior” includes the following:

  • Whether they were a virgin;
  • The number of sexual partners they’ve had;
  • How quickly they became intimate with previous partners;
  • Details of previous sexual encounters;
  • Use of birth control;
  • History of sexually transmitted diseases; and
  • History of prostitution.

However, rape shield laws do not include a conversation about sex or previous false accusation about sex made by the alleged victim. Additionally, the following evidence is admissible under an exception to the North Carolina rape shield law:

  1. Evidence of other sexual encounters between the alleged victim and the defendant;
  2. Evidence of an alleged victim’s past sexual behavior when used to show someone else committed the crime in question;
  3. Evidence is offered to serve as the basis for an expert’s testimony whose opinion is that the alleged victim fantasized or invented the sex acts; or
  4. Evidence of a pattern of sexual behavior so distinctive and so closely related to the defendant’s version of what happened in this case, when used to show that the defendant reasonably believed that the complainant consented.

While there are four exceptions, the first two come up most often. For example, a defendant charged with the rape of a girlfriend or colleague may be able to admit into evidence past instances of the couple’s sex lives to show that the alleged victim consented to sex. This exception does not apply, however, if the defendant and alleged victim were unfamiliar with one another.

In cases where the defense is that another person committed the sexual assault, the defendant may be able to introduce evidence related to the alleged victim’s past sexual encounters to explain physical evidence of an assault. For example, a defendant may be able to argue that the alleged victim and her boyfriend enjoyed rough sex, which could be the cause of any bruising.

Before the court allows any evidence that may fall within the rape shield law into trial, it must hold a hearing. This hearing is held outside the presence of the jury, usually before the jury is even selected. It is imperative that those facing charges of rape or other serious sex crimes have an experienced attorney representing them throughout these pretrial motions.

Are You Facing Allegations of Sexual Assault?

If you were recently arrested and charged with a forcible sex offense, reach out to the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, for immediate assistance. Our dedicated North Carolina criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience aggressively representing the rights of clients charged with all types of serious crimes, including rape and other sex crimes. We have the skill, knowledge, and passion needed to effectively defend against even the most serious charges. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Charlotte sex crimes lawyer, give us a call at 704-405-2580. You can also reach our Concord criminal defense lawyers at 704-918-4747.

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