Michigan v. Lucas, No. 90-149

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtO'CONNOR
Citation500 U.S. 145,114 L.Ed.2d 205,111 S.Ct. 1743
PartiesMICHIGAN, Petitioner v. Nolan K. LUCAS
Decision Date20 May 1991
Docket NumberNo. 90-149

500 U.S. 145
111 S.Ct. 1743
114 L.Ed.2d 205
MICHIGAN, Petitioner

v.

Nolan K. LUCAS.

No. 90-149.
Argued March 26, 1991.
Decided May 20, 1991.
Syllabus

Michigan's "rape-shield" statute generally prohibits a criminal defendant from introducing at trial evidence of an alleged rape victim's past sexual conduct. However, a statutory exception permits a defendant to introduce evidence of his own past sexual conduct with the victim, provided that he files a written motion and an offer of proof within 10 days after he is arraigned, whereupon the trial court may hold an in camera hearing to determine whether the proposed evidence is admissible. Because respondent Lucas failed to give the statutorily required notice and, therefore, no admissibility hearing was held, a state court refused to let him introduce, at his bench trial on charges of criminal sexual assault, evidence of a prior sexual relationship with the victim, his ex-girlfriend. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, but the State Court of Appeals reversed, adopting a per se rule that the statutory notice-and-hearing requirement violates the Sixth Amendment in all cases where it is used to preclude evidence of a past sexual relationship between a rape victim and a criminal defendant.

Held:

1. Assuming, arguendo, that the Michigan rape-shield statute authorizes preclusion of the evidence as a remedy for a defendant's failure to comply with the notice-and-hearing requirement, the State Court of Appeals erred in adopting a per se rule that such preclusion is unconstitutional in all cases. The Sixth Amendment is not so rigid. The notice-and-hearing requirement serves legitimate state interests: protecting rape victims against surprise, harassment, and unnecessary invasions of privacy and protecting against surprise to the prosecution. This Court's decisions demonstrate that such interests may justify even the severe sanction of preclusion in an appropriate case. Taylor v. Illinois, 484 U.S. 400, 413-414, 417, 108 S.Ct. 646, 654-655, 656, 98 L.Ed.2d 798; United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 241, 95 S.Ct. 2160, 2171, 45 L.Ed.2d 141. Pp. 149-153.

2. The Michigan courts must address in the first instance whether the rape-shield statute authorizes preclusion and whether, on the facts of this case, preclusion violated Lucas' Sixth Amendment rights. P. 153.

Vacated and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. BLACK-

Page 146

MUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined.

Don W. Atkins, Detroit, Mich., for petitioner.

Sol. Gen. Kenneth W. Starr, Washington, D.C., for U.S., as amicus curiae, supporting petitioner, by special leave of Court.

Mark H. Magidson, Detroit, Mich., for respondent.

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

Because Nolan Lucas failed to give statutorily required notice of his intention to present evidence of an alleged rape victim's past sexual conduct, a Michigan trial court refused to let him present the evidence at trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, adopting a per se rule that preclusion of evidence of a rape victim's prior sexual relationship with a criminal defendant violates the Sixth Amendment. We consider the propriety of this per se rule.

I

Like most States, Michigan has a "rape-shield" statute designed to protect victims of rape from being exposed at trial to harassing or irrelevant questions concerning their past sexual behavior. See Mich.Comp.Laws § 750.520j (1979).**

** The Michigan statute provides:

"(1) Evidence of specific instances of the victim's sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the victim's sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the victim's sexual conduct shall not be admitted under sections 520b to 520g unless and only to the extent that the judge finds that the following proposed evidence is material to a fact at issue in the case and that its inflammatory or prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value:

"(a) Evidence of the victim's past sexual conduct with the actor.

"(b) Evidence of specific instances of sexual activity showing the source or origin of semen, pregnancy, or disease.

"(2) If the defendant proposes to offer evidence described in subsection (1)(a) or (b), the defendant within 10 days after the arraignment on the information shall file a written motion and offer of proof. The court may order an in camera hearing to determine whether the proposed evidence is admissible under subsection (1). If new information is discovered during the course of the trial that may make the evidence described in subsection (1)(a) or (b) admissible, the judge may order an in camera hearing to determine whether the proposed evidence is admissible under subsection (1)."

In its brief, the State lists analogous statutes in other jurisdictions. See Brief for Petitioner 38, n. 3.

Page 147

This statute prohibits a criminal defendant from introducing at trial evidence of an alleged rape victim's past sexual conduct, subject to two exceptions. One of the exceptions is relevant here. It permits a defendant to introduce evidence of his own past sexual conduct with the victim, provided that he follows certain procedures. Specifically, a defendant who plans to present such evidence must file a written motion and an offer of proof "within 10 days" after he is arraigned. The trial court may hold "an in camera hearing to determine whether the proposed evidence is admissible"—i.e., whether the evidence is material and not more prejudicial than probative.

Lucas was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct. The State maintained that Lucas had used a knife to force Wanda Brown, his ex-girlfriend, into his apartment, where he beat her and forced her to engage in several nonconsensual sex acts. At no time did Lucas file a written motion and offer of proof, as required by the statute. At the start of trial, however, Lucas' counsel asked the trial court to permit the defense to present evidence of a prior sexual relationship between Brown and Lucas, "even though I know it goes against the Statute." App. 4.

Page 148

The trial court reviewed the statute then denied the motion, stating that "[n]one of the requirements set forth in [the statute] have been complied with." Id., at 7-8. The court explained that Lucas' request was not made within the time required by Michigan law and that, as a result, no in camera hearing had been held to determine whether the past sexual conduct evidence was admissible. A bench trial then began, in which Lucas' defense was consent. The trial court did not credit his testimony. The court found Lucas guilty on two counts of criminal sexual assault and sentenced him to a prison term of 44 to 180 months.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed. Relying on People v. Williams, 95 Mich.App. 1, 289 N.W.2d 863 (1980), rev'd on other grounds, 416 Mich. 25, 330 N.W.2d 823 (1982), the Court of Appeals held that the State's notice-and-hearing requirement is unconstitutional in all cases where it is used to preclude evidence of past sexual conduct between a rape victim and a criminal defendant. 160 Mich.App. 692, 694-695, 408 N.W.2d 431, 432 (1987). The court quoted language from Williams stating that the requirement " 'serve[s] no useful purpose' " in such cases and therefore is insufficient to justify interference with a criminal defendant's Sixth Amendment rights. 160 Mich.App., at 695, 408 N.W.2d, at 432, quoting Williams, supra, 95 Mich.App., at 10, 289 N.W.2d, at 867. Williams surmised that the purpose of the notice-and-hearing requirement is " 'to allow the prosecution to investigate the validity of a defendant's claim so as to better prepare to combat it at trial.' " 160 Mich.App., at 694, 408 N.W.2d, at 432, quoting Williams, supra, 95 Mich.App., at 10, 289 N.W.2d, at 866. It concluded, however, that this rationale " 'loses its logical underpinnings' " when applied to evidence of past sexual conduct between the victim and the defendant because " 'the very nature of the evidence . . . is personal between the parties' " and therefore impossible to investigate. 160 Mich.App., at 694, 408 N.W.2d, at 432, quoting Williams, supra, 95 Mich.App., at 10, 289 N.W.2d, at 866-867.

Page 149

The Court of Appeals, relying on Williams, thus adopted a per se rule that the Michigan rape-shield statute is unconstitutional in a broad class of cases. Under this rule, a trial court would be unable to preclude past sexual conduct evidence even where a defendant's failure to comply with the notice-and-hearing requirement is a deliberate ploy to delay the trial, surprise the prosecution, or harass the victim. We granted certiorari, 498 U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 507, 112 L.Ed.2d 520 (1990), to determine whether the Michigan Court of Appeals' per se rule is consistent with our Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.

II

Michigan's rape-shield statute is silent as to the consequences of a defendant's failure to comply with the notice-and-hearing requirement. The trial court assumed, without explanation, that preclusion of the evidence was an authorized remedy. Assuming, arguendo, that the trial court was correct, the statute unquestionably implicates the Sixth Amendment. To the extent that it operates to prevent a criminal defendant from presenting relevant evidence, the defendant's ability to confront adverse witnesses and present a defense is diminished. This does not necessarily render the statute unconstitutional. "[T]he right to present relevant testimony is not without limitation. The right 'may, in appropriate cases, bow to accommodate other legitimate interests in the criminal trial process.' " Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44, 55, 107 S.Ct. 2704, 2711, 97 L.Ed.2d 37 (1987), quoting Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 295, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 1045, 35 L.Ed.2d 297 (1973). We...

To continue reading

Request your trial
523 practice notes
  • Barbe v. McBride, No. 06-7550.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • April 7, 2008
    ...in conflict with what we term the "Rock-Lucas Principle" established by the Supreme Court of the United States. See Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 151, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991) (recognizing that, rather than adopting per se rule for precluding evidence under rape shield stat......
  • Barresi v. Maloney, No. CIV.A. 00-10403-EFH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 24, 2003
    ...not per se Sixth Amendment violations where the exclusion serves legitimate state interests in protecting the victim. Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 151, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991); Dolinger, 302 F.3d at 11. More specifically, the First Circuit has held that it is not an unrea......
  • Johnson v. Moore, No. 8:02-CV-1003-T-23EAJ.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
    • February 7, 2007
    ...accused' and are `arbitrary' or `disproportionate to the purpose they are designed to serve.'" [citations omitted] ); Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991); Olden v. Kentucky, 488 U.S. 227, 109 S.Ct. 480, 102 L.Ed.2d 513 (1988); Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 4......
  • Dominguez v. Trimble, 1:11-CV-01491 GSA HC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • May 21, 2012
    ...legitimate interests in the criminal trial process.'" Rock, 483 U.S. at 55, quoting Chambers, 410 U.S. at 295; accord, Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 149 (1991). "As a result, state and federal rulemakers have broad latitude under the Constitution to establish rules excluding evidence fro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
522 cases
  • Barbe v. McBride, No. 06-7550.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • April 7, 2008
    ...in conflict with what we term the "Rock-Lucas Principle" established by the Supreme Court of the United States. See Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 151, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991) (recognizing that, rather than adopting per se rule for precluding evidence under rape shield stat......
  • Barresi v. Maloney, No. CIV.A. 00-10403-EFH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 24, 2003
    ...not per se Sixth Amendment violations where the exclusion serves legitimate state interests in protecting the victim. Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 151, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991); Dolinger, 302 F.3d at 11. More specifically, the First Circuit has held that it is not an unrea......
  • Johnson v. Moore, No. 8:02-CV-1003-T-23EAJ.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
    • February 7, 2007
    ...accused' and are `arbitrary' or `disproportionate to the purpose they are designed to serve.'" [citations omitted] ); Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 111 S.Ct. 1743, 114 L.Ed.2d 205 (1991); Olden v. Kentucky, 488 U.S. 227, 109 S.Ct. 480, 102 L.Ed.2d 513 (1988); Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 4......
  • Dominguez v. Trimble, 1:11-CV-01491 GSA HC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • May 21, 2012
    ...legitimate interests in the criminal trial process.'" Rock, 483 U.S. at 55, quoting Chambers, 410 U.S. at 295; accord, Michigan v. Lucas, 500 U.S. 145, 149 (1991). "As a result, state and federal rulemakers have broad latitude under the Constitution to establish rules excluding evidence fro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Character, Credibility, and Rape Shield Rules
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy Nbr. 19-1, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...testimony violated 6th and 5th Amendment protections because a more tailored rule would have adequately served state interests). 57. 500 U.S. 145 (1991). 158 THE GEORGETOWN JOURNAL OF LAW & PUBLIC POLICY [Vol. 19:145 shield rule.58 The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, f‌in......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT