Saturday, December 5, 2009
The Spousal Privilege - Revisited
The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a new opinion involving a doctrine the law calls "spousal privilege." The old doctrine basically holds that a wife cannot testify against her husband in a court of law unless the husband permits her to do so (and, further, that a husband cannot testify against his wife in a court of law unless the wife permits him to do so) - if that testimony involves "confidential communications." For example, if a husband tells his wife in confidence that he committed a crime, the prosecutor cannot compel that wife to testify against the husband at trial about that confidential conversation. In this example, it is the husband who gets to determine whether to invoke the privilege - not the wife. In this most recent opinion (State v. Perez), the Supreme Court of Ohio held that while a wife may not testify against her husband in a criminal trial, any tape recordings of those conversations may be played for the the jury at trial. The Court held that this technical bypass of the privilege was, essentially, OK with them. After all, said the Court, the wife did not testify - the prosecution just played the tapes. Suggestion, check the room for bugs when planning a crime in the presence of your wife.