Do You Have to Testify Against Your Spouse?Leave a Comment
If your spouse is arrested on suspicion of a crime, there are a number of thoughts and emotions that can flash through your mind. In particular, you may wonder if the prosecutor could force you to testify against your spouse, leading to his or her potential conviction.
Under a doctrine known as spousal privilege, you could receive protections from being forced to testify against your husband or wife. However, there are a number of exceptions and conditions when it comes to spousal privilege that you will need to understand.
Understanding Spousal Privilege
In most cases, no person can refuse to provide testimony or submit evidence when involved in a criminal proceeding. However, people who are married may have special privileges and be exempt from this rule in certain circumstances.
Generally, there are two types of spousal privilege:
- Spousal testimonial privilege, which prevents one spouse from testifying against the other during a criminal trial
- Marital communications privilege, which prevents one spouse from testifying about confidential communications with the other
Spousal testimonial privilege has been recognized throughout history as a valid excuse to avoid testifying against one’s spouse. In order to assert this right, the spouses must be legally married at the time that the privilege is claimed.
Exceptions to Spousal Privilege Rights
A spouse cannot invoke spousal privilege if he or she is asked to testify about matters that occur before marriage. Additionally, the case must not involve any of the following:
- A crime against a child of either spouse
- A crime against the spouse
- A crime where a third party aids one spouse in committing a crime against the other
- Crimes involving human trafficking for immoral purposes, like prostitution
If your case involves any of the above factors, you could be compelled to testify against your spouse—even if you are currently married.
Washington Laws on Spousal Privilege
The Revised Code of Washington 5.60.060 outlines the state’s rules on spousal privilege. With some exceptions, a spouse cannot testify against another spouse without his or her consent. Additionally, a spouse cannot be compelled to testify during marriage or afterward. Registered domestic partners also have this right.
Facing Criminal Charges? Speak to a Defense Lawyer
In a criminal case, there are a number of complexities that you and your spouse will need to navigate. From determining spousal privilege to defending yourself against accusations of criminal activity, being arrested on criminal charges can be a stressful and scary experience.
In these situations, you need an attorney who can advocate for your rights and guide you through the criminal justice process. A Washington criminal defense attorney has the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to advocate on your or your spouse’s behalf and craft a compelling case to achieve the best possible outcome.
If you are arrested on criminal charges, remember your rights. You have the right to remain silent and you have the right to an attorney. After your arrest, comply with the officers’ orders, but do not make any statements or answer any questions. Instead, request to speak with a lawyer.
Then, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and strategize your next steps.