Shield Laws Law and Legal Definition

Shield laws are state statutes, which exist in some states and vary by state, which make communications between news reporters and informants confidential and privileged, so that reporters cannot be forced to reveal their sources in court. This is similar to the doctor-patient, lawyer-client or husband-wife privilege. The confidentiality provided by shield laws also applies to reporters' notes of conversations. In states which have no shield law, many judges have found reporters in contempt of court and put them in jail for refusing to name informants or reveal information gathered on the promise of confidentiality.

There are also rape shield laws, which exist in all states except Arizona, that basically limit the use of a victim's prior sexual history by the defense in an effort to undermine the credibility of a rape victim's testimony.