When can someone assert a spousal privilege?

There are two types of spousal privileges that people may be able to invoke if a current or former spouse is being investigated for a crime or has been arrested. There are important differences between them, so it's essential to know which one applies, whether you're the person facing potential criminal penalties or the spouse (or in some cases ex-spouse) of that person.

One is the marital communications privilege. It prevents private verbal or written communications between spouses from being used as evidence against one of them. This privilege can be used in civil cases as well as criminal ones.

Even communications between spouses who are no longer married are protected, as long as they occurred while the couple was legally married. However, if the communications were shared with or overheard by others, they are no longer protected.

The second type of spousal privilege is called spousal testimony privilege. It can only be asserted in criminal cases. The privilege allows people to refuse to testify against their spouse.

The spousal testimony privilege applies to current legally-married spouses only. A former spouse can be called to testify about anything that occurred during the marriage (as well as before or after it). Former spouses may also be required to testify if the alleged crime is against them or the couple's children.

It's important to note that both of these privileges apply only to couples who are or were legally married. Common-law spouses cannot assert them.

If you have questions or concerns about evidence or testimony that is being sought that may fall under one of these types of spousal privilege, it's essential to talk with your Connecticut criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is the Spousal or Marital Privilege?," Brett Snider, Esq., accessed Nov. 09, 2017