Fresh Complaint Rule Law and Legal Definition

Fresh complaint rule is a rule of evidence applicable in certain sexual assault cases. According to the fresh complaint rule, the testimony of a witness to whom a victim of a sexual offense made a fresh complaint is admissible to corroborate the victim's testimony.

The doctrine was first articulated in the case In re Cheryl H., 153 Cal. App. 3d 1098, 1128-1129 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1984) where in the court held that even though no statutory authority exists for admission of "fresh complaints" by sex victims, the California courts have long allowed them into evidence often under the theory they are not being introduced for the truth of the matter stated in the complaint but merely that the complaint indeed was made. Among other things, the fact a complaint was lodged tends to support the credibility of the victim's in court testimony. But to be admissible on this ground, the complaint must have been volunteered a short time after the sexual assault. It must truly be "fresh" and it must truly be in the nature of a "complaint" and not a response to questions.

p>“The rule is applied widely in rape and morals cases and permits proof that the violated victim complained within a reasonable time to someone she would ordinarily turn to for sympathy, protection and advice”.[State v. Balles, 47 N.J. 331, 338 (N.J. 1966)]

The common law fresh complaint rule holds that evidence of a prompt complaint of rape is admissible to corroborate the complaining witnesses' testimony regarding the occurrence of the rape. [Commonwealth v. Wills, 44 Va. Cir. 459, 462 (Va. Cir. Ct. 1998)]

This theory is not recognized by most courts now.