Marital and Spousal Privilege in North Carolina

marital privilegeThere are many special legal privileges to marriage. Two such privileges – marital privilege and spousal communication privilege – prevent or limit whether a spouse is permitted to testify against the other spouse in a court of law and if so, to what extent they are permitted to do so.

North Carolina recognizes many privileges, such as attorney-client privilege (click here to read more), doctor-patient privilege, therapist-patient privilege, etc. In addition, North Carolina recognizes two privileges related to marriage. Marital privilege and spousal privilege are two separate privileges in North Carolina. We will discuss them separately to help give readers a better understanding of the two privileges.

Confidential Spousal Communication Privilege

This privilege protects communications between spouses throughout the course of a marriage. This means that a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against his spouse with regard to her communications throughout the marriage. In fact, even if he wants to testify against her, he cannot. This is because the privilege belongs to the spouse seeking to bar the testimony, not to the spouse whose testimony is in question.

Note that communications carried out before or after the marriage, or during a period of separation, are not covered under this privilege.

Marital Privilege

This means that a person cannot be compelled to testify against her spouse. This extends to testimony about anything – not just marital privileges. This privilege belongs to the spouse whose is testifying, not to the spouse whom the testimony is against. This means that spouse 2 cannot prohibit spouse 1 from testifying against spouse 2 (except with regard to marital communications). It is up to spouse 1 to decide whether or not she wishes to testify against spouse 2. However, if she does not wish to, she cannot be compelled to do so.

If you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina or South Carolina, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Gilles Law has criminal defense lawyers licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina, at both the state and federal level.

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