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Ohio Rape Shield Law: Meaning & Impacts


Some Questions Cannot Be Asked in a Criminal Case

On April 22, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the rape shield law protects both consensual and nonconsensual sexual activity from being shared. This means that an accuser’s prior sexual history may NOT be used as evidence against them in a criminal case. Whether the case involves sex crimes or not, it is illegal to ask about an alleged victim’s preceding sexual activity unless they have made false sexual abuse allegations in the past.

What Is The Meaning of Ohio’s Rape Shield Law?

It all began with the 2016 State v. Jeffries case in which a minor, who we’ll refer to as D.S., reported that Jeffries sexually abused her for nine years. D.S. was a foster child for most of her life. At age 4 or 5, D.S. reported that she was sexually assaulted by a foster brother in a different home. When she was 6 years old, D.S. and her two half-siblings moved in with a woman who we’ll refer to as H.G. Jeffries, the defendant, was H.G.’s son and one of the half-sibling’s father, but served as a “father figure” to D.S. even though he wasn’t related to her.

D.S. was sexually abused by Jeffries for years, and when she came forward in 2016, Jeffries was charged with kidnapping and raping D.S. when she was 12 and 16. During the trial, Jeffries’ lawyer attempted to question D.S. about her prior sexual abuse history, and that’s when Ohio’s rape shield law came into play. Jeffries’ attorney attempted to use D.S.’s prior sexual abuse history as evidence against her in attempts to prove she had “knowledge of the system.”

However, a judge prohibited such use of evidence and found him guilty on all four charges, but Jeffries appealed. Jeffries claimed that Ohio’s rape shield law only prevented using an accuser’s consensual history as evidence against them, and not their nonconsensual history. After careful examination of key terms in the rape shield law, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that an accuser’s consensual and nonconsensual activity may NOT be admitted as evidence in a criminal case.

Why Does Ohio’s Rape Shield Law Matter?

The purpose of the rape shield law is to prevent harassment of the victims in a criminal case and encourage victims to report sexual assaults. The law is also intended to focus on trying the accused rather than the accuser.

If you are charged with a criminal offense, it’s important to understand what Ohio’s rape shield law means for your case. Our rape defense attorney stays up to date with every law and constantly analyzes ways in which certain changes could affect your criminal charge. In this case, we will improve and expand upon specific defense tactics needed to help win your case without breaking Ohio’s recently updated rape shield law.

If you’ve been accused of committing rape or any other sexual offense, schedule a free consultation with us online or call (614) 707-4239.