Texas Rape Shield Law | Everything You Should Know

Texas Rape Shield Law | Everything You Should Know

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In Texas, rape is a serious crime that can have life-altering consequences for the victim. These range from physical trauma to psychological effects such as depression and PTSD. 

However, despite strict laws and measures to curb this malice, it remains a key thorn for Texans. Each year, thousands of Texans are victims of rape. In 2020 alone, the figure stood at 13,509 more than California, the most populous state. 

Considering the gravity of the issue, Texas’ Rape Shield Law is strict to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and discourage the vice. As such, a rape charge can significantly impact your life.

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The Rape Shield Law prohibits defendants from introducing evidence about a victim’s past sexual behavior as part of their defense strategy. However, some exceptions allow defendants to be found not guilty if they meet specific criteria. 

Read on to learn more about the Rape Shield Law and the exceptions you can use to gain a not-guilty verdict. 

Understanding Texas Law on Rape

Rape involves sexual intercourse or penetration of another person, which occurs against their will and without consent. Additionally, here is an extract from Section 22.011 that outlines Sexual Assault: 

(a) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) intentionally or knowingly:

(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ or another person by any means without that person’s consent;

(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor without that person’s consent; or

(C) causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

Texas Rape Shield Law

Texas Rule of Evidence 412, commonly referred to as the rape shield law restricts and regulates conversations about a survivor’s previous sexual behavior in courts for cases involving sexual assault. However, this particular regulation is not limited to Texas; every state across the U.S. has adopted its version, even the federal system. 

According to Rule 412 of the court system, in any judicial proceedings pertaining to sexual assault cases, certain evidence will not be accepted as valid.

  • Reputation or opinion evidence of a victim’s past sexual behavior; or
  • A specific instance of a victim’s past sexual behavior.

Exceptions to the Rape Shield Law

There are only three circumstances when “past sexual behavior” can be brought up during trial proceedings.

If a defendant intends to use evidence of the victim’s past sexual behavior, it should be to:

  • To dispute the scientific or medical evidence presented by the state
  • To prove there was consent
  • To demonstrate motive or bias

If the defendant desires to include evidence of alleged prior sexual conduct by the victim, they must inform the court; then, a private hearing will be held with no jury present so that it can be decided whether or not such information may reach the ears of jurors.

How to Use the Exceptions to Gain a Not Guilty Verdict

If you want to use one of the exceptions listed above to be found not guilty, there are a few steps you will need to take. You should first provide the court with adequate notice of your intent to introduce evidence concerning prior sexual behavior. 

Then, you must make a formal offer of proof to the court. This should include evidence relevant to your defense and explain why it should be admitted. Once the court has reviewed your request, it will then be determined whether or not admitting the evidence would unfairly prejudice or embarrass the victim. 

The court may also consider whether the evidence is reliable and relevant and how it could influence the outcome of the case. 

Defense Against Rape Charges

Being charged with rape is a serious offense with massive long-term consequences. Depending on the circumstances, you might face up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines. 

It is important to remember that a rape accusation does not always lead to a conviction and that you have the right to defend yourself against such allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney should be your go-to resource for legal advice and representation throughout the entire process. 

By researching the laws that apply to rape cases in Texas and understanding the exceptions to the rape shield law, you can be informed about your options for defense. Taking this step will help you create a strong case and maximize your chances of being found not guilty. 

Regardless of the result, it is important to recognize the impact that such an accusation can have on your life. It is, therefore, essential to be aware of all the legal steps you must take to protect yourself and your rights throughout the process. 

Such impacts include:

  • Reputation damage even if you’re not found guilty
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Social stigmatization
  • Psychological trauma 
  • The potential for registration as a sex offender
  • Difficulty finding housing

With such consequences on the cards, having a strong legal team is non-negotiable. Your attorney will help you:

  • Understand the law and its implications
  • Provide a comprehensive defense strategy 
  • Keep emotions out of it, focusing instead on facts and evidence
  • Navigate the court system and its rules 

Start Your Legal Defense on the Right Foot

Rape Shield Law in Texas is designed to prevent the victim’s past sexual behavior from being used as a basis for guilt or innocence. While there are some exceptions to this law, they should be used judiciously and with the help of an experienced attorney. 

At Starr Law, P.C. Criminal Defense, our team is highly knowledgeable about Texas laws and can provide exceptional legal advice during your case. For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Rape Shield Law?

The Texas Rape Shield law protects victims of sexual assault by prohibiting the introduction of evidence of their past sexual behavior into a criminal trial.

What are the Exceptions to This Law?

The exceptions include evidence relevant to the defense, such as whether the victim consented or made a false accusation. Additionally, reputation evidence can be used in some cases to demonstrate bias or prejudice on the part of the victim or witnesses. 

What Should I Do If I am Charged with Rape?

If you are facing rape charges in Texas, it is vital to seek legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you understand the law and its implications and provide a comprehensive defense strategy to maximize your chances of being found not guilty.

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