Marital Privilege and Your Nevada Personal Injury Case

If you have heard any talk about a legal case, you may have heard a reference to “privilege,” but you may not know what privilege actual means when it comes to a Nevada lawsuit. Under state privilege law, it is prohibited for someone to refuse to be a witness, disclose any matter, produce any object or writing, or prevent someone else from doing the same.

Privilege Explained

In order to maintain the preservation of confidential nature of communications regarding a lawsuit, the legal industry labels some types of case-related communications as “privileged.” This privilege then protects the parties from being compelled to testify regarding the confidential content of these privileged communications. Examples of privileged communications include communications between a lawyer and his or her client; a doctor and his or her patient; and between legally married spouses.

Marital Privilege

Nevada law provides the following general rule when it comes to privilege regarding testifying about the content of communications between a legally married couple:

  • Neither spouse may be examined as a witness for or against his or her spouse, without the spouse’s consent;

  • Neither spouse may be examined - during the marriage or afterwards - without the consent of the other spouse regarding any communication made to one another during their marriage.

The marital privilege does not apply in all circumstances. For example, marital privilege cannot be asserted under the following:

  • In a civil proceeding brought on behalf of or by one spouse against the other;

  • In a proceeding seeking to commit or place a spouse, the property of one or both spouses, under the control of another due to the alleged physical or mental condition of the spouse;

  • In a proceeding brought on behalf of or by a spouse to establish his or her competence;

  • In a proceeding in the family or juvenile court system; or

  • In a criminal proceeding where one spouse is charged with any of the following:

    • Incest or bigamy;

    • Abandonment of a child;

    • Nonsupport of a child or spouse;

    • A crime against the person or property of the other spouse committed before or during marriage;

    • A crime against the person or property of a child of either spouse committed before or during marriage;

    • If a child in the custody or control of either spouse committed before or during marriage;

  • In any criminal proceeding regarding events that occurred before the spouses were legally married.

Notably, both spouses hold this privilege. In other words, even if one spouse wants to testify against the other, his or her spouse can invoke the privilege and prevent the spouse from testifying about private, marital conversations.

Exceptions and Waivers to Marital Privilege

Other scenarios in which marital privilege may not be invoked is when it is waived or when there is an exception under law. These include:

When a spouse has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be insane, the other spouse shall be a competent witness. He or she can be called to testify as to any fact that occurred before or during the spouse’s insanity. Once the spouse who has been declared to be insane is declared to be of sound mind by a court of competent jurisdiction, the marital privileges apply once again.

When a spouse who holds the marital privilege, or his or her predecessor, voluntarily discloses or consents to disclosure of any significant part of the matter, the privilege is waived.

Legal Help in Nevada

If you have more questions about the law governing marital privilege or if you have any other legal issue, contact Parry & Pfau. Our skilled attorneys have represented clients across Nevada. We will explain your rights and obligations under applicable law.

(image courtesy of estefania-solveyra)