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NCJ Number: 135601 Find in a Library
Title: Rape Shield Laws: Limits on Zealous Advocacy
Journal: American Journal of Criminal Law  Volume:19  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1991)  Pages:35-56
Author(s): P M Hazelton
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 22
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Before most States and the Federal Government passed rape shield laws excluding certain kinds of evidence prejudicial to the prosecutrix, rape victims often suffered harassment during trial.
Abstract: Defense counsel often questioned that the prosecutrix refused to have intercourse by presenting evidence of her unchastity and used this information to attack the honesty and credibility of the prosecutrix in bringing rape charges. Fear of being attacked on cross-examination tended to discourage rape victims from pressing charges. Several States passed rape shield statutes in the early 1970's, and the Federal Government enacted such a law in 1978. These laws were designed to end the public degradation of rape victims and protect them from humiliation in order to encourage rape reporting. By 1985, all but two States had passed rape shield statutes. In the context of zealous advocacy and rape shield laws, attorneys have two often conflicting duties: to defend the client zealously within the bounds of law and to function as an officer of the court. Rape shield laws have redirected the energies of defense attorneys by limiting the information they can present in rape trials. Even with the policies supporting rape shield laws in mind, sanctions against defense attorneys for their evidentiary choices are unlikely to occur, absent clear violation of a rule of evidence. The traditional procedural ethic of zealous advocacy and its perceived constitutional import, especially in criminal matters, allows defense attorneys broad scope in preparing and defending their cases. 103 footnotes
Main Term(s): Rape victim shield laws
Index Term(s): Female victims; Rules of evidence; Sexual assault victims
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