Domestic violence situations are always complicated and complex. Fairfax criminal defense attorney Scott C. Nolan, PLLC understands how difficult it can be to bring criminal charges upon a loved one, or two be caught up in a legal situation with your spouse.

Being married comes with certain privileges under the law. One of these privileges is that you cannot be legally required, or forced, to testify about sensitive topics, communication, or interactions between you and your spouse. If you do not wish to, you will not be legally forced to testify against your spouse in court. However, as with any privilege, this “spousal privilege” is not unconditional, and is accompanied by a handful of exceptions. In order to better understand spousal privilege and its exceptions and conditions, contact a Virginina criminal defense lawyer as soon as you possibly can. Together, you and your attorney will explore all options to ensure you feel comfortable and confident throughout the entirety of the legal proceedings you may face.

What Is Spousal Privilege?

Spousal privilege, also known as marital privilege and husband-wife privilege, includes two types of privileges: the spousal communications privilege and the spousal testimonial privilege.

According to the Legal Information Institute from Cornell Law School, “the spousal communications privilege applies in civil and criminal cases. It shields communications made in confidence during a valid marriage. The spousal testimonial privilege precludes one spouse from testifying against the other spouse in criminal or related proceedings.”

In other words, Virginia state court, as well as the federal government, both recognize spousal privilege. Under this privilege, spouses are protected from the harm that could potentially arise in their marital relationship if they were forced to testify under oath against one another. However, if it’s deemed that important information is being withheld from the investigation, it may be required that a spouse testify.

Can I Testify Against My Spouse In Court If I Want To?

Anyone can waive their spousal privilege if they choose to. If you wish to testify against your spouse in court, you have every right to do so. A spouse can waive, or in other worse, forgo their right to assert, spousal privilege if they do not object to their spouse’s testimony and have no issue with testifying against them.

Another way spouses can waive their privilege is by delivering what’s referred to as “a confidential spousal communication” to an unbiased third party. It is the responsibility of each spouse to protect and ensure the efficacy of their privileged communications and, remember, either spouse has the right to waive the privilege by his or her conduct, or other communications. If you have questions or concerns about a confidential spousal communication, contact a Fairfax lawyer for a free consultation. It’s best to have your questions addressed directly by a criminal defense attorney who’s equipped to help.

What Does Spousal Privilege Protect?

Spousal privilege protects a married individual from being forced to testify against their partner in court. Either spouse can use this privilege, but be mindful that it only protects certain communications. Statements that are not considered “communications” between each spouse, which might include information about the other spouse’s conduct, are not privileged.

For example, if your wife overhears the solicitation of criminal activity, such as selling drugs, this information is not “a communication,” but rather an observation about events. If she overhears you confessing to a crime, admitting to causing harm to someone, or discussing details of another unlawful act, these observations may not be privileged either, and can be used in court.

What Do I Need To Assert My Spousal Privilege?

As long as you are legally married in the United States, you can use spousal privilege. Most states recognize the same exceptions as we’ve listed above. However, if you have any questions about spousal privilege, or have questions about the possibility of testifying against your spouse, contact a Virginia criminal defense lawyer for the most accurate advice.

Contact The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC Today For A Free Case Evaluation

The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC is a seasoned Fairfax criminal defense attorney with a dedicated track record of success in fighting criminal cases in Virginia state. If you or someone you love have questions about an impending criminal case, or are concerned with the possibility of testifying against a loved one in court, call The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC today.

Our firm offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation that comes at no risk to you. Our team will try our best to answer your initial questions and provide helpful advice to you during this difficult time.