What Protections Does the Marital Communications Privilege Provide?

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney white collar crime

White collar crime is a type of typically nonviolent financial crime that usually involves some sort of financial gain. White collar crimes are often perpetrated by offenders who have been entrusted with certain financial information, which is why the penalties for committing a white collar crime can be severe. Successfully prosecuting a white collar crime requires sufficient evidence, which can come from various people and places. However, when it comes to getting evidence from an individual’s spouse, there are certain protections that exist that protect couples from having to reveal communications made in private with one another.

What Is the Marital Communications Privilege?

In the 1850s, the marital communications privilege was created and originally existed in U.S. law as an attempt to preserve the sanctity of marital conversation, therefore encouraging free and open communication and strengthening the marital bond. Both spouses retain the marital communications privilege, meaning either spouse can invoke the privilege at any time, as long as the three required elements exist. If a spouse wishes to keep certain communications confidential, he or she must be able to prove that:

  1. The communication was made during the course of a marriage that is recognized by Connecticut state law.

  2. The communication consists of an “utterance or expression” that was intended to communicate information to the other spouse.

  3. The information in question was intended to be confidential.

If the spouse is able to prove that these three things were true at the time the communication in question took place, the communication will be covered by the marital communications privilege.

Exceptions to the Privilege

As with most rules and laws associated with the criminal justice system, there are exceptions to this privilege. When it comes to interpreting the marital communications privilege, different courts have different opinions. One such point of contention is defining what “communications” are actually covered by this privilege. Does it apply to just oral and written conversation or actions as well? In Connecticut, “confidential communication” is defined as any “oral or written communication made between spouses during a marriage,” meaning that actions are not covered by the privilege in Connecticut.

It is possible that a spouse may also still be forced to give testimony like any other witness in certain situations. The marital communications privilege is invalidated in Connecticut if:

  • You participated in criminal conduct or conspiracy to commit a crime with your spouse at the time the communication was made.

  • Your spouse has been charged with attempting, committing, or threatening you with bodily injury, sexual assault, or another act of violence.

  • Your spouse has been charged with attempting, committing, or threatening your child or any minor child in the care or custody of either spouse with bodily injury, sexual assault, risk of injury, or another act of violence.

Contact an East Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you or your spouse has been charged with a white collar crime or any other type of crime in Connecticut, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can answer any questions you may have concerning your criminal charges and help you determine your rights under the marital communications privilege. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 860-290-8690.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/09/02/the-marital-communications-privilege-in-white-collar-cases/

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/publications/litigation_journal/2018-19/summer/marital-privileges/

https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_961.htm#sec_54-84b

 

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