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Marital Communications Privilege Lawyers

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What Is the Marital Communications Privilege?

The marital communications privilege is the privilege allowing one spouse not to testify about confidential communications made to the other spouse. It is based on the principle that conversations between two people who are married are considered privileged, and therefore inadmissible as evidence in a trial. There are two separate privileges within this category, the husband-and-wife privilege and the spousal confidential communications privilege.

What Is the Husband-and-Wife Privilege?

The husband-and-wife privilege protects a marital relationship when a valid marriage exists. The privilege is mainly used to grant spousal immunity from testifying in criminal cases. The husband-and-wife privilege:

  • Can only be used if the couple is currently married
  • Does not require couple to have been married at the time of the event
  • Can include observations, events and non-verbal acts in addition to speech
  • Cannot be used if alleged crime is against spouse or their children or in suits between spouses

What Is the Spousal Confidential Communications Privilege?

This privilege applies to communications made during the time of marriage, in anticipation that it would be kept confidential. The spousal communications privilege:

  • Can only be used for communicated acts or words meant to be confidential
  • Does not require the couple be married at time of trial BUT they must have been married at the time the communications were made (i.e., divorce does not terminate this privilege)
  • Cannot be used if alleged crime is against spouse or their children or in suits between spouses

Do I Need to Consult an Attorney about this Privilege?

If you are accused of a crime, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can best assess your specific situation to determine if this privilege applies in your case. A family lawyer can also advise you of your privileges and rights in divorce proceedings and civil lawsuits.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 06-07-2018 06:56 PM PDT

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