Marital privilege attorney Stephen P. Shepard Baltimore County, MD Towson

Understanding the Marital Privilege in Maryland Law: A Simple Guide


Legal jargon can be intimidating and sometimes baffling, particularly when it comes to court testimonies and privileges. One such privilege, and the topic of our discussion today, is the marital privilege. This post aims to explain this concept in plain language, focusing on its application in Maryland.

What is Maryland’s Marital Privilege?

In law, a privilege is a right or benefit granted to certain individuals or groups that provides protection under specific circumstances. Marital privilege, also known as spousal privilege, refers to rights and protections granted to married couples in legal proceedings.

There are two aspects of marital privilege: the privilege against adverse spousal testimony and the confidential marital communications privilege.

The Privilege Against Adverse Spousal Testimony

The privilege against adverse spousal testimony means one spouse cannot be forced to testify against the other in a criminal case. This privilege belongs to the witness-spouse, not the defendant-spouse, which means the spouse who is called to the stand can choose whether or not to testify against the other.

In Maryland, this privilege is applicable as long as the couple is married at the time of the testimony. However, it doesn’t extend to cases where one spouse is charged with a crime against the other or their children.

Confidential Marital Communications Privilege

The confidential marital communications privilege, on the other hand, protects private conversations between spouses. This means any communication between spouses made privately and in confidence during their marriage cannot be disclosed in court, even if they later divorce or one spouse consents to the disclosure.

The rationale behind this privilege is to promote open and honest communication within a marriage, which is deemed socially beneficial. It’s worth noting that this privilege remains in effect even after the marriage ends or in cases where one spouse is willing to disclose the conversation.

Exceptions to the Marital Privilege in Maryland

There are significant exceptions to these privileges. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, if a spouse is charged with a crime against the other spouse or their children, the privilege against adverse spousal testimony does not apply.

Secondly, the confidential marital communications privilege can be overruled if the communication was made in the furtherance of a crime or fraud. This means if spouses were planning illegal activities together, their conversations wouldn’t be protected.

The Importance of Understanding Marital Privilege

Understanding marital privilege is crucial for a variety of reasons. It helps ensure the sanctity and confidentiality of the marital relationship. It also plays a critical role in legal strategy during criminal defense, as it can determine whether certain evidence can be admitted or excluded.

However, like all legal concepts, it’s complex and nuanced. The interpretation of marital privilege can vary based on specific circumstances, case law, and legal precedents. Therefore, it’s always advisable to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to fully understand how these privileges apply to your particular situation.

Domestic Violence Attorney in Towson, MD

The marital privilege in Maryland, like in many other jurisdictions, balances the protection of personal relationships with the need for justice. While it offers crucial safeguards for married couples, there are significant exceptions that need to be considered. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the basics of marital privilege. But remember, when dealing with legal matters, it’s always best to seek the counsel of a professional.

Our criminal defense law firm in Towson, MD has extensive experience in helping people use the marital privilege as a defense in a domestic violence case in which the parties have since reconciled. Contact Shepard Law today to schedule a confidential, free consultation with an award-winning criminal defense attorney in Towson, Maryland to discuss your case and how we can help.

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