How is the Spousal Privilege applied in a California Criminal Case?

Spousal privilege is defined under California Evidence Code §§ 970-973. Under this section, a married person has the privilege to not testify against his or her spouse in any proceeding, unless otherwise directed by statute.

Under this section, a married person may not be called as a witness in a case in which his or her spouse is a party, unless there is express consent from the spouse holding the privilege. The only exception is if the spouse is called to testify as a witness without the opposite party knowing of the marital relationship in good faith.

The spousal privilege may not be exercised in a case of domestic violence. California Evidence Code § 972 (e)(1) states that a married person does not have the spousal privilege in a criminal proceeding in which one spouse is charged with a crime against the person of the other spouse.

The statute behind spousal privilege is designed to protect the marriage and the communication between a married couple, but also accounts for protection against each spouse. A knowledgeable Criminal Defense attorney is familiar with the intricacies of the privilege and can advise you whether you would be required to testify or whether you can invoke the privilege.