The Constitutional Right to Confront Accusers Still Exists in Sexual Assault Cases
In the recent case in State vs. Lavalleur, the Nebraska Supreme Court found that the defendant was denied his constitutional right to confront the alleged victim when the court prevented him from asking the victim about a relationship in which she was involved when she made the rape allegation.
In Lavalleur, the defendant sought to present evidence that the alleged victim was in a sexual relationship with another person and that the allegations of rape were merely an explanation as to why she did not return home to her lover that night and why she went to another person’s house to take a shower before returning home.
While the rape shield laws protect sexual assault victims from unnecessary, irrelevant, and invasive questions about their sexual practices, the rape shield law does not prevent the defendant from exposing an alleged victim’s motives to fabricate an allegation. It is not unusual for an aggressive criminal defense attorney to learn through the discovery process that there are text messages, social media, photos, and other evidence that may support a theory that the alleged rape was consensual.
While the alleged victim’s sexual history is protected by rules of evidence, that protection does not trump a defendant’s constitutional right to confront his accuser or expose motives for a false allegation.