Long Beach Criminal Lawyer Talks About the “Marital Privilege”

In this country there is perhaps no misunderstood legal principle than that of the husband/wife privilege. The privilege not to disclose confidential marital communications, which may be asserted by a spouse in most criminal proceedings against the other spouse, is governed by Evidence Code sections 980–987. However, what many do not understand is that it is not applicable in criminal proceedings arising out of a crime committed against a child of the marriage  nor in juvenile court proceedings. Similarly, the privilege not to testify against one’s spouse is not applicable when one spouse is charged with a crime against a child of the marriage, in juvenile court proceedings, and in child support proceedings brought against a spouse on behalf of the child of that spouse. See Cal Rules of Ct 5.684(e) (privilege not to testify or be called as a witness against a spouse and confidential communications privilege are not available to a parent or guardian in a contested jurisdictional hearing in a dependency case). In People v Daniels (1969) 1 CA3d 367, 376.  The california criminal court of appeal held that letters written by a husband to his wife that would otherwise be protected by the privilege not to disclose confidential marital communications were admissible for impeachment purposes at the criminal trial for rape and incest of defendant’s daughter. The privilege is not made applicable because the communications were made after, rather than before, the commission of the crime.

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