In Maryland, Marital Privilege (also known as Spousal Privilege) may be invoked when an individual is called to testify against his or her spouse at trial. Without additional evidence, the State’s case may rely on the spouse’s testimony. This may lead to a dismissal of the case when Marital Privilege is asserted. There are two types of Marital Privilege: Confidential Communication Spousal Privilege and Spouse of someone charged with a crime.
With Confidential Communication, if information shared with a spouse while married was done so privately and intended to stay between the spouses, then it is privileged information and cannot be shared at trial for both civil and criminal cases. To be successfully asserted, the Privilege must be asserted before the spouse is called to testify. Information shared while married remains privileged even after divorce.
For the Spouse of a Criminal Defendant Privilege, the testifying spouse may choose whether to testify on behalf of the State and cannot be forced to do so. This privilege is commonly asserted in domestic violence cases in which parties have forgiven each other by the time the case is heard in court. If a testifying spouse asserts Marital Privilege in a domestic violence case, he or she cannot assert it again in a subsequent case with the same defendant. If the case involves child abuse (under 18 years old), Marital Privilege cannot be invoked. Marital status on the date of trial dictates whether the Privilege can be asserted – divorced parties at the time of testimony cannot assert this Marital Privilege.
If you are party to a case that involves spousal testimony, call Azari Law at 301.362.3300 to discuss your options today.