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How & When to Use Character Evidence in TX Rape Cases

Published: May 05, 2023 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

When you have been accused of sexual assault, rape, or any sex crime in Texas, the prosecutor must introduce compelling evidence meant to prove your guilt. One of the top ways they do this is through character evidence, designed to use your past bad acts, behaviors, or sexual history against you.

Your defense attorney will also consider the alleged victim’s history when examining the allegations against you. Doing so can help them build your defense and prove your innocence.

There is a time and place to introduce character evidence in a Texas rape case, but that does not mean that character evidence will always be admissible.

Types of Character Evidence

Three primary types of character evidence could be used in your Texas rape defense:

Reputation Evidence

Reputation evidence refers to the general opinion of the alleged victim or defendant within the community, their friend groups, and institutions they may be involved in. The prosecutor and defense attorney presiding over your case will likely look for witnesses familiar with your reputation.

In either case, witnesses could testify about the alleged victim or the accused’s honesty, integrity, and truthfulness.

Opinion Evidence

Opinion evidence is like reputation evidence, except the opinions come from the defendant’s or alleged victim’s character witnesses. These parties have been called to testify on either party’s character traits.

Opinion evidence comes from the personal knowledge of these witnesses. Their testimony could allow the judge or jury to understand who the defendant or alleged victim truly is.

Specific Instances of Conduct Evidence

When evidence is introduced to prove or disprove consent or to demonstrate a pattern of behaviors, it is known as ‘specific instances of conduct.’

For example, the defense might introduce evidence showing the alleged victim’s history of making inconsistent statements or false sex crime allegations. Alternatively, the district attorney could attempt to present evidence that shows the defendant has a history of taking advantage of victims through prior complaints.

When Is Character Evidence Admissible?

Character evidence is admissible if it has value to the case and is not severely prejudicial. Character evidence can only be introduced if it will not mislead the jury or introduce confusion surrounding the charges.

However, there are prohibited uses of character evidence. These restrictions could hurt your defense or ability to challenge the evidence against you.

Both the defendant and prosecution can introduce character evidence. After one side presents evidence, the opposing party will get the chance to rebut it. For example, the prosecutor may offer evidence that the alleged victim is peaceful. The defense could then use evidence to show that the alleged victim was, in fact, the aggressor in your case.

When to Use Character Evidence

When accused of rape in Texas, it is essential to use character evidence wherever possible. Texas rules of evidence allow for character evidence to support your case, so long as prosecutors and defendants can respond to it.

The Defendant’s Character

When you have been accused of an offense like rape, it is imperative to have evidence demonstrating your good character. For example, suppose you have no criminal record and present yourself as polite, well-dressed, and devoted to your family. Your lawyer can show that your good character makes it impossible for you to have committed the offense. You might call upon your friends, family, neighbors, church affiliates, and other parties to testify to your good character at trial.

The Alleged Victim’s Character

Calling the alleged victim’s character into question could be one of the best ways to defend yourself in court. This character evidence could be particularly valuable in cases of sexual assault and rape. For example, your defense attorney might call witnesses to testify that the alleged victim has a history of making false claims, a reputation for promiscuity, and frequently uses drugs or alcohol.

However, do not be surprised if the prosecutor then attempts to refute this evidence by introducing character witnesses who argue that the alleged victim has strong religious values and would never engage in promiscuity, drug use, or make false claims. However, it is essential to note that according to Evid. R. 412, there are situations in which an alleged rape victim’s prior behavior will not be considered admissible.

How to Challenge or Present Character Evidence

Your rape defense attorney in Texas will be ready to challenge and present character evidence as part of your defense strategy:

Challenge Their Reputation

When character evidence against you is introduced, your defense attorney will be responsible for challenging the witnesses’ or alleged victim’s reputation. Your lawyer will work to show that the subject does not have strong ties to a community or a group or introduce other evidence that can show the subject has a history of concerning traits.

Testimony from Acquaintances

Your sex crimes lawyer can also obtain testimony from acquaintances who can attest to specific traits or behavioral tendencies, including loyalty to your family, bravery, and dedication to your job. We will need to secure testimony from people who can reasonably form credible opinions regarding your character.

Instances of Unfavorable Conduct

Another way of challenging character evidence is by introducing specific instances of the alleged victim’s unfavorable conduct. For example, suppose the alleged victim threatened to destroy your life via text message after you ended the relationship. This could be valuable evidence that the so-called “victim” is prone to lying, revenge, and vindictiveness.

Character Evidence Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses are often called to testify in rape in child sexual abuse cases. However, behavioral traits are generally not proven through psychologist expert testimony.

If the expert witness claims the alleged victim is generally truthful and not prone to exaggeration or delusion, the jury may take their testimony seriously. For this reason, your defense attorney must be prepared to ask the right questions, so the jury knows these character traits are not ironclad.

Contact a Texas Sex Crime Defense Attorney

Character evidence could be instrumental in your case. It could show whether the alleged victim has a history of making unfounded rape claims or false accusations. Your sex crimes defense lawyer will also be ready to challenge the prosecutor if they attempt to use prior bad acts against you.

At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we are highly experienced and knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorneys with a successful history of fighting for the falsely accused. For help protecting your reputation and future, contact us or call (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.