What is Spousal Privilege in Arizona Criminal Cases

spousal privilege

What is Spousal Privilege in Arizona Criminal Cases?

Does a significant other have the obligation to testify against you in the case of a criminal investigation? In Arizona, there are certain exceptions as far as witnesses go. The spousal privilege is a powerful one that offers some protection in terms of revealing information.

The Spousal Privilege in Arizona

The privileges are defined in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-4062. There are four of them but the spousal privilege is probably the most important one.

According to the statute, a husband or a wife shall not be examined as a witness without the consent of their significant other. They cannot be asked about events that have occurred during the marriage or afterwards.

In addition, the privilege applies to communication between the two people in question.

The exception does not apply whenever a crime is committed against a wife by a husband or vice versa. The exception is also invalid in the case of abandonment, failure to support, neglect and failure to provide for both the significant other and minor children.

In simple terms, a defendant has the power to keep their significant other from testifying against them or providing investigators with information. Even if the witness wishes to testify, the defendant’s privilege precludes them from doing so.

Other Arizona Privileges

Apart from the spousal privilege, there are three others that a defendant can rely on to keep certain individuals from testifying against them:

  • An attorney does not have the right to testify in a criminal investigation, unless they have gotten consent from a client
  • A clergyman or a priest also fall under the exception whenever a confession is made by the defendant
  • Physicians and surgeons do not have the right to reveal information about medical treatments or frequency of visits without the consent of a patient

The defendant has to ascertain each one of these privileges in an upcoming trial. Action on their behalf will be required, the privileges do not apply by default. Whenever a defendant believes that a certain testimony will violate any of the mentioned privileges, they will have to bring the matter to the attention of the court.

Getting Married to Invoke the Spousal Privilege?

Now that the definition of spousal privilege has been provided, a simple question arises – can someone marry another person for the sole purpose of invoking the spousal privilege in upcoming criminal proceedings?

A legal case got a lot of notoriety in the beginning of 2013 when a teacher married their student for the purpose of invoking said privilege. According to an Associated Press report, the teacher divorced her husband to marry the much younger student after being charged with statutory rape.

While the scenario unfolded in North Carolina, similar attempts to “bend” the legal system are possible in Arizona.

spousal privilegeThe short answer to the question is yes. A person can get married to someone in order to keep them from testifying in court. Remember, however, that the prevention of a witness testimony is typically not sufficient to ensure a favorable outcome. While such a scenario is possible, it’s mostly seen in crime movies rather than in real-life trials. The example from North Carolina is more of an exception rather than a general rule.

Usually, the prosecution relies on an array of evidence and testimonies. Thus, the elimination of a single witness will not be sufficient to have the case dropped.

The aim of the spousal privilege is to keep tension from building up in the family as a result of the criminal proceedings. Thus, it shouldn’t be abused. Instead of opting for far-fetched defense approaches, it would be a much better idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who will come up with a viable action plan.