If you do not want to testify against your spouse or want to prevent your spouse from testifying against you, here is what you need to know.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

Marital Privilege in Criminal Cases

Understanding your rights and protections under the law is crucial when facing legal challenges. One such protection in Michigan is marital privilege. This statute can significantly impact whether a judge can compel a spouse to testify against the other in court. Knowing your rights is essential if you’re concerned about being called as a witness against your spouse or if a court might summon your spouse to testify against you.

Key Provisions of Michigan’s Marital Privilege Statute

Michigan’s marital privilege statute, outlined in Sec. 2162, offers important protections in both civil and criminal proceedings:

Civil Actions:

    • A lawyer cannot call a spouse as a witness for or against their husband or wife without their spouse’s consent, and vice versa.
    • This privilege holds unless specific exceptions apply (discussed below).

    Criminal Prosecutions:

      • Similar to civil actions, the court cannot compel a spouse to testify against the other without their consent.
      • There are notable exceptions where this privilege does not apply.

      Exceptions to Marital Privilege

      While the general Marital Privilege in Michigan rule is that spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other, there are critical exceptions where this privilege is waived:

      • Divorce, Separate Maintenance, or Annulment Cases: Spousal privilege does not apply in proceedings related to the dissolution or alteration of the marital relationship.
      • Prosecution for Bigamy: Spouses can testify against each other if the case involves bigamy.
      • Crimes Against Children or Minors: The privilege is not applicable if the crime involves a child (either spouse’s child or any minor under 18).
      • Domestic Violence or Abuse (Personal Wrong or Injury): Cases involving personal wrongs or injuries inflicted by one spouse on the other are exempt from marital privilege.
      • Desertion or Abandonment: Spousal privilege does not protect against testimony in cases of desertion or abandonment.
      • Property Disputes: When the title to property is in dispute, and one spouse’s claim opposes the other’s interest, the privilege does not apply.
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      Confidential Communications

      Another layer of protection under Michigan’s Marital Privilege law relates to confidential communications between spouses:

      • Criminal Cases: The court cannot compel the testifying spouse to disclose confidential communications made during the marriage without their consent.
      • Civil and Administrative Cases: Similar protections prevent examination of private communications unless the spouse consents.

      What Marital Privilege in Michigan Means for You

      Understanding these protections can help if you are worried about being called as a witness against your spouse, or if your spouse might be called to testify against you. Marital privilege ensures that many private communications remain confidential and protected from disclosure in court.

      However, be mindful of the exceptions. In cases involving divorce, crimes against children, domestic violence or assault, and other specified situations, this privilege does not apply, and spouses may be compelled to testify.

      Case Example #1

      The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. were hired to represent a woman who was the alleged victim in a domestic violence case. The defendant was her husband, a citizen of India who was in the United States on a B-1 Visa. They’d lived in the United States for over four (4) years. During a particularly heated verbal argument, our client called 911 with the hope that police officers would remove her husband from their home and their situation would cool down. In their hometown in India, this type of situation is not uncommon, and police often ask one spouse to leave for 24 hours. Our client was unfamiliar with police officers in Michigan and did not realize her husband would be arrested and charged, against her will, with domestic violence. She also did not realize that a conviction for domestic violence may very well have had immigration consequences, such as her husband being expelled from the United States due to his B1 Visa status. Because of the marital privilege exceptions, the judge compelled our client to testify at trial. Our team determined there was a valid reason and justification for our client to invoke her right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and she avoided testifying on alternative grounds. 

      Case Example #2

      Our client hired us to represent him on a serious embezzlement charge involving over $1,000,000. The allegation was that he diverted some of his employer’s income into his and his wife’s joint bank account. The prosecution attempted to call our client’s wife, who was not a suspect, as a witness for the government. Our client and his wife claimed the marital privilege. The judge excused her from testifying over the prosecution’s objection. We were able to get the charge reduced and our client avoided a jail sentence.

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      How LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. Can Help With Marital Privilege in Michigan

      At Michigan’s premier criminal defense law firm, LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., we understand the complexities of Michigan’s marital privilege laws and can provide expert guidance tailored to your specific situation. Whether you are a potential witness or a defendant, our experienced attorneys are here to help you navigate these legal challenges effectively. Contact us today for a confidential, free consultation and ensure your rights are protected. We will find a way to help you.

      Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

      We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
      we are not afraid to win!

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