(CN) – Nevada’s rape shield law, which restricts the admissibility of a victim’s sexual history, applies in criminal cases but not in civil cases, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled. But the justices quickly added that a civil court can limit discovery of such history in order to protect a victim’s interests.
Sonia F., the guardian ad litem of 14-year-old J.M., claimed that J.M. was raped by 20-year-old Amir Ahmad. Ahmad claimed the sexual encounter was consensual.
Ahmad asked the court to force J.M. to have an independent medical examination. Sonia F. protested under the rape shield law, in part to protect J.M. from answering questions about her sexual history.
The state Supreme Court agreed to address the issue for the first time.
Examining the rape shield law, the justices noted that the use of the words “prosecutor” and “accused” indicate that the law was clearly intended for criminal trials, not civil lawsuits.
“Nevertheless, in civil sexual assault cases, we conclude that discovery should not be unlimited,” the court wrote. “Rather, the district court should use its sound discretion to determine whether the discovery sought is consistent with (the law), which provides that inquiries must be relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
The state justices instructed the lower court to conduct discovery in a manner consistent with their opinion.