Ledbetter v. State


Defendant charged with rape of a female under 21.  Victim is known to be promiscuous and invited defendant a bar.  They went back to victim’s uncle’s house at the suggestion of the victim.  Victim introduced defendant to uncle as her husband.  Defendant claims to have no recollection of having sex with the victim.  Victim was accompanied by another woman at the bar and to the home, who was a prostitute.  Defendant was convicted of rape at trial.


Whether a woman can be convicted of being “lewd” without any evidence of prior sexual history.

Relevant Statute

“that evidence of the female’s reputation for the want of chastity (where she is over 14 years old)… shall be admissible in behalf of the defendant.”

“Nothing in this section shall authorize or warrant a conviction when the female over twelve years is, at the time and before the carnal knowledge a bawd, lewd, or kept female.”


Yes, conviction overturned.  If the woman has a reputation of being “unchaste” she can be considered “lewd” for purposes of the statute.  Even if the female has not engaged in sexual activity, her want for it can establish her lewdness.  Therefore, it isn’t necessary to show evidence of sexual history to establish lewdness.  Prior case law has held that want of chastity or promiscuity, even when the woman has not yet engaged in sexual intercourse, is admissible and sufficient to establish lewdness.  Her conduct of loitering around “beer joints” and associating with prostitutes in public places and her willingness to lead the defendant to her uncle’s home sufficiently establishes a reputation of lewdness.

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