Right of Confrontation and Rape Shield Laws

When a criminal defendant has been accused and arrested for the commission of a crime, there are certain rights and protections that are available to ensure that a criminal defendant gets a fair trial. These constitutional protections can require, for example, that a criminal defendant is tried by a group of his/her peers and that he/she is permitted to a speedy trial. The Rules of Evidence are also useful in determining the type of evidence, whether it is direct and tangible evidence or testimonial evidence, that may be admissible either in favor of or against the criminal defendant. If you have been arrested for a crime, you have the right to confront your accuser. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will advocate on your behalf. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Right of Confrontation

There is also the right of the criminal defendant to what is known as the right of confrontation of his or her accuser. This provides that the criminal defendant has the right to hear all evidence against him or her, in particular any testimony that is proffered by witnesses to prove that the criminal defendant committed the crime. Any testimony that is put forth by a hostile witness may be cross-examined to ensure that the testimony has been examined through all lenses and that any prejudice or bias is revealed.

Limitations to the Right of Confrontation

There are limitations, however, to the extent by which a hostile witness’s testimony or character may be impeached. For example, the defense attorney may use inconsistent statements against a hostile witness to show that the witness’s testimony may not be entirely credible and trustworthy. The defense attorney may also introduce evidence to show that the witness is biased against the criminal defendant, and may be speaking ill of the criminal defendant for other motives.

Limitations: Witness is the Victim of a Crime

There are also limitations about the ability of the defense attorney to impeach the character of a victim of a crime. Generally, the victim’s character that is not pertinent to the case cannot generally be brought in as evidence that the victim is not a trustworthy, reliable, or credible witness. Evidence about the victim being peaceful may be brought in to show that the victim was not the initial aggressor in the crime.

Rape Shield Laws in Florida

Where a criminal defendant has been charged with sexual battery, however, there are many protections of the victim. These evidence rules are known as Rape Shield laws. Under the rape shield laws of Florida, the victim’s sexual proclivities, behavior, and dress are not permitted to be brought in as evidence that the victim consented to the sexual interaction. According to the law, the defense may not bring in any evidence demonstrating that the victim engaged in sexual relationships with other people, unless the evidence is introduced to show that criminal defendant is not the source of any injuries, diseases, pregnancy, or semen. In addition, the defense may not bring in additional reputational evidence for the purpose of proving that the victim dressed in a certain way and therefore incited the sexual battery. Finally, the defense may bring in evidence of sexual relations between the criminal defendant and the victim only to show that consent was provided because the sexual encounter was of the same type and involved the same behavior that has previously existed between the criminal defendant and the victim.

Rape shield laws are crucial in ensuring that the victim’s reputation and dress do not unnecessarily bias or prejudice the jury into believing that the victim incited the sexual battery or provoked the sexual abuse simply by her reputation or dress which are unrelated to the facts of the case.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.