The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot put the burden on rape defendants to prove that an alleged victim consented.
The court had previously ruled that when a defendant claimed the contact was consensual, it was up to the defendant to prove there was consent by a preponderance of the evidence. The rulings essentially made consent an affirmative defense to a rape charge, the way a killer can claim self-defense in a murder case.
In a 6-3 opinion, the justices said those decisions wrongly interpreted U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Prosecutors must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and making a defendant prove that there was consent got that requirement backward, they said.
“Requiring a defendant to do more than raise a reasonable doubt is inconsistent with due-process principles,” Justice Debra Stephens wrote for the majority, saying it raises “a very real possibility of wrongful convictions.”
The full opinion can be found here.