Saturday, September 8, 2012

NJ Rape Shield Law Protects Content of Messages To And From A Child In A Criminal Trial

A defendant accused of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child may introduce, at trial, evidence of the child's participation in communications constituting "sexual conduct." Lack of opportunity to introduce the fact that communications existed could deprive a defendant of their right to defend against the State's charges and evidence needed for a fair trial must be admitted as long as the value of the proofs are not outweighed by their prejudicial effect. The fact that a child previously participated in the exchange of text messages and internet communications with adult males while the child also pretended to be an adult may be introduced as evidence by the defendant. However, the specific content of the messages is protected under the New Jersey Rape Shield Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-7) based on the notion that any probative value of the content of the messages is substantially outweighed by the prejudice the messages would cause. The goal of the court in making this determination is to serve the interests of justice while protecting the privacy of the victim. The NJ Rape Shield Law is not limited to the protection of children but was amended in 1988 to include children under its protection. The law is intended to limit the introduction of the victim's prior sexual behavior to both protect the victim's privacy as well as prevent prejudice in the minds of the jury regarding the victim and any potential to have been a willing participant in the defendant's conduct. This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter. If you are accused of a sex crime, you should consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately in order to protect your rights. For more information on sex offenses or other criminal law matters in New Jersey visit

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