There are two types of Spousal Privileges in the State of Virginia, Civil and Criminal. This article will discuss both types. To see the law in its entirety, see law 8.01-398 entitled Privileged Marital Communications.
In Civil Privilege, a person has the right to refuse to disclose, and to prevent anyone else from disclosing, any confidential communication between his spouse and him during their marriage, regardless of whether he is married to that spouse at the time he objects to the disclosure. The code defines “confidential communications” as any communications made privately to a spouse that was not intended to be disclosed to another person.
In Criminal Privilege, however, the spouses are allowed to testify against one another. They may not be compelled to testify against each other except in the following cases:
Refusal of a spouse to testify does not create presumption and no comment by the attorney.
Case law established that several requirements be met to invoke the Privileged Marital Communications Law. These requirements are:
You may be wondering what is privileged under spousal communications. All information privately imparted to a spouse in consequence of marriage through conduct, act, signs, or spoken words are considered privileged communication. This precedent was set in the case Menefee 189 Va. 900.
Privileged Marital Communications does not apply in the following situations: