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State v. Alvey: Iowa's Victimization of Defendants Through the Overextension of Iowa's Rape Shield Law

NCJ Number
Iowa Law Review Volume: 76 Issue: 4 Dated: (May 1991) Pages: 835-870
P J Fisher
Date Published
36 pages
This critique of the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in State v. Alvey (1990) focuses on the suppression of evidence of a complaining witness' previous false allegations of rape under Iowa's rape shield law.
Rape shield laws presumptively prohibit evidence related to a rape victim's past sexual behavior. This prohibition protects victims from tactics of character assassination aimed at disproving current sexual assault claims. Broad interpretations of these statutes, however, has led to the victimization of the defendant in some rape cases. This victimization occurs when a court bars impeachment evidence through the application of its State's rape shield law. In State v. Alvey the court exploited the defendant's rights in a sexual assault case by categorizing evidence of a prior false rape accusation as irrelevant and by implying that even if the evidence was relevant, the State's rape shield law would still exclude it. This analysis first discusses the factual background that motivates the enactment of rape shield laws and the inconsistencies that have resulted from the laws' applications. The study then examines the factual and procedural history of Alvey and provides an analysis of the Iowa Supreme Court's interpretation of Iowa's rape shield law. The study develops the argument that evidence of prior false rape accusations does not fall within the confines of Iowa's rape shield law. The author proposes modification of Iowa Rule of Evidence 412 to allow evidence of prior false allegations of rape made by the complaining witness. 247 footnotes


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