Utah’s rape shield law is contained in Rule 412 of the Utah Rules of Evidence. The statute provides for a general rule prohibiting evidence of a victim’s prior sexual behavior with exceptions in certain cases. The statute also provides some procedural protections for the victim and a right to be heard in the proceedings.

Rule 412 states:
‘The following evidence is not admissible in any criminal proceedings involving alleged sexual misconduct…”

“(E)vidence offered to prove that any alleged victim engaged in other sexual behavior; and … evidence offered to prove any alleged victim’s sexual predisposition.”

“The following evidence is admissible…evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior by the alleged victim offered to prove that a person other that the accused was the source of the semen, injury, or other physical evidence…evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior by the alleged victim with respect to the person accused of the sexual misconduct offered…by the accused to prove consent; or…by the prosecution; and…evidence the exclusion of which would violate the constitutional rights of the defendant.”

Courts have been fairly liberal in applying the exceptions if the defendant or his attorney can articulate a specific, logical and relevant reason to allow the evidence. These reasons are usually tied to prior false reports; prior relationships with the suspect; and prior knowledge of specific sexual behavior.

The procedure involved allows the court to listen to the proposed evidence outside of the presence of the defendant and his attorney. The procedure requires the proponent of the evidence to file a motion at least 14 days before the trial that specifically describes the proposed evidence and states the purpose for which it is offered. The court can shorten the time for good cause. The prosecutor is then required to notify the victim of the hearing. The court will hold a hearing “in camera.” That is a hearing held out of the presence of the defendant and the attorneys. During that hearing the court must allow the victim to be heard. The court then rule whether the evidence will be admissible. All the documents and records of the hearing are to be sealed unless the court orders otherwise.

Thank you to Salt Lake Deputy District Attorney Paul Parker for drafting this summary!