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Published on 11/17/2023, 2:31:00 PM

Can My Wife Refuse to Testify Against Me In My Criminal Case?

What might have started as a simple argument with a husband or wife can easily turn into domestic assault charges. If you or a loved one is entangled in such a situation, understanding Maryland's spousal and marital prohibitions on testifying is crucial. Moreover, recognizing the importance of professional legal aid from a firm like ours can be a game-changer in your legal journey.

Understanding Marital Privilege and Spousal Immunity

First we must establish the difference between the two concepts, and explain how they might apply.

What is Marital Privilege?

Marital privilege, a cornerstone of the legal system, protects confidential communications between spouses. Under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 9-105, confidential communications during marriage are safeguarded, meaning one spouse cannot be compelled to disclose these conversations in court. This privilege upholds the sanctity of marital privacy, a principle we deeply respect and defend in our practice.

This privilege applies to communications; however, it doesn't apply to an assault. For that we would look to Spousal Immunity, which is a separate concept.

Spousal Immunity in Maryland - A Closer Look?

Spousal immunity presents a more nuanced scenario. According to Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 9-106, a spouse cannot be forced to testify against their partner in most cases.

However, exceptions exist, especially in situations involving child abuse or assault where the spouse is a victim. In a case involving child abuse, a spouse cannot refuse to testify. Additionally, spousal immunity is a one time privilege when the case involves an assault on the spouse themselves.

It's critical to navigate these exceptions with the expertise of an experienced attorney, as they can significantly impact the case's outcome.

How does Spousal Immunity Work?

Typically in a case involving assault on a spouse, the spouse is the sole witness that the State could prove the case through. If a spouse intends to assert their privilege, and none of the above exceptions apply, then the State would call the case for a trial and have the spouse sworn in.

Testimony from the spouse would cover the required factual basis for the immunity. For example, the State would ask:

Q: What is your name?

Q: How do you know [Defendant's name]?

Q: Are you currently married?

Q: Were you married to [Defendant] on the date of the incident?

Q: Do you wish to assert your spousal immunity?

Q: Do you understand this can only be used one time?

Q: Have you ever asserted this right before?

After this the State typically rests its case, unless the State intends to prove the crime through other witnesses or evidence!

Can the State proceed even if my partner doesn't want to testify?

Unfortunately the answer is yes. The State of Maryland is the master of its own case, and a savvy prosecutor might have other ways to introduce evidence other than direct testimony from a spouse. Some of these include:

  1. Other eye witnesses
  2. Prior Statements from the Spouse that are within a hearsay except
  3. Statements of the Defendant
  4. Video or recording of the incident
  5. Contemporaneous 911 Calls

The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney

Having a skilled criminal defense attorney by your side is indispensable in these complex legal matters. Our firm's unique approach focuses on a thorough understanding of marital privilege and spousal immunity, ensuring your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Why Choose Our Firm?

Our firm stands out due to our:

  • Expert Knowledge: We stay abreast of all legal nuances in marital privilege and spousal immunity.
  • Personalized Strategy: Every case is unique, and we tailor our defense strategies accordingly.
  • Proven Track Record: Our success stories and client testimonials speak volumes about our commitment and expertise.

Real-Life Scenarios and Legal Nuances

Imagine a scenario where a spouse is on trial for assault, and your spouse is called to testify. The intricacies of whether the spouse can refuse to testify depend on various factors, including the nature of the charges and their marital status at the time of the alleged crime. In such cases, our role is to meticulously analyze the situation and provide the best legal counsel and defense.

FAQs on Marital Privilege and Spousal Immunity

Q: If I get married after a crime, can my spouse use Spousal Immunity and refuse to testify?

No, specifically the spousal immunity law states that a person cannot assert the privilege if the person on trial and the spouse married after the date on which the alleged crime for which the person is on trial occurred.

Q: Can my spouse be forced to testify against me in a criminal case?

Generally, no. However, there are exceptions, particularly in cases involving child abuse or spousal assault.

Q: Does marital privilege apply to all communications between spouses?

Marital privilege typically protects confidential communications made during the marriage.

Q: How can a criminal defense attorney help in cases involving marital privilege?

An attorney can help navigate the legal complexities, ensuring your rights and those of your spouse are protected. It is important to note that your attorney is likely to refer your spouse to another attorney to advise them on this right.

The Importance of Professional Legal Assistance

Navigating the intricacies of marital privilege and spousal immunity requires not just legal knowledge, but also strategic acumen and a deep understanding of the criminal justice system. Our team at FrizWoods brings all these elements to the table, ensuring you receive the best possible defense.

Why You Shouldn't Go It Alone

The stakes in criminal cases are high, and the nuances of marital privilege and spousal immunity can significantly affect the outcome. Without professional guidance, you risk misinterpreting these complex legal concepts, potentially jeopardizing your case.

If you're facing a legal challenge where marital privilege or spousal immunity plays a role, don't hesitate to seek our expert legal assistance. Visit our contact page to schedule a consultation, and let us guide you through this challenging legal landscape with our experience, knowledge, and dedication to your case.