Stephen Shepard Towson, MD criminal defense attorney spousal privilege

What is the Spousal Privilege?

With certain exceptions and limitations, the spousal privilege provides that the spouse of a Defendant on trial for a crime may not be compelled or forced to testify as an adverse witness against the Defendant spouse. See Md. Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings 9-106. It most commonly arises in cases of domestic violence or assault between the spouses. In theory, when the non-defendant spouse is the State’s only witness/victim, the non-defendant spouse may assert the privilege and the defendant spouse would be found not guilty in light of there not being any evidence.

Exceptions When the Spousal Privilege May Not Be Used

The One-Time Usage Limitation

Generally speaking, the spousal privilege may only be asserted once during the course of the marriage. Specifically, it is barred from being used again if the defendant spouse on trial was previously charged with assault in any degree or assault and battery of the non-defendant spouse, the non-defendant spouse was sworn to testify at the previous trial, and the non-defendant spouse refused to testify on the basis of the spousal privilege.

The Child Abuse Exception

The spousal privilege may not be asserted if the underlying criminal offense involves the abuse of the child under the age of eighteen.

Towson, MD Domestic Violence Attorney

Our office has extensive experience with domestic violence cases and the spousal privilege. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Towson, MD domestic violence attorney if you have been accused of assault or some other form of domestic violence. During your consultation, our attorney will discuss the facts of your case, how the spousal privilege may be used as a defensive strategy, and how to avoid a conviction altogether or minimize the consequences of a possible conviction. Timing is especially important, as the Office of the State’s Attorney will likely try to contact the non-defendant spouse as soon as possible.