Priveleges Between Spouses and Your Charlottesville Personal Injury Case

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:

  1. Prosecution of offense against each other, minor child, or property of the other spouse
  2. Forgery or uttering check when signed spouse name
  3. Cases involving:
    1. Criminal sexual assault
    2. Crimes against nature involving a minor, or
    3. Child abuse

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:

  1. They must be married at the time
  2. It must have been said in confidence, not just privately
  3. It must not have been said in the presence of a third party
  4. It must not be reported to a third party

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:

  1. When adverse parties or
  2. Case in which spouse was charged with a crime or tort against the person or property of the other or against minor child of either spouse
  3. Business matters where spouse is acting as agent of other spouse
  4. Child abuse cases
  5. If made in presence of 3rd party or subsequently related to a 3rd party