Ask a Legal Question
  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Posts
    1
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Testifying against a spouse or family member

    I am wondering what the law is for a family member to testify against another family member. I thought that there was some kind of law that states that, even if I know, for example, my father murdered someone that unless I choose to testify against him that I do not have to. Seems to me that there is a legal term for this but I cannot think what it is, if there is. Please help me.


  2. thelawprofessor's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    7,575
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 275 Times in 259 Posts
    The legal term is called "privilege" or privileged communication. This is granted only under certain conditions when the sanctity of the communication is necessary for the function of society. It is dealt with under the rules of Evidence. The Federal Rule is number 501 and states have their own rules but it is doubtful that you would have such a privilege, especially since the act you witnessed was not a "communication" that would be private. Some well known privileges are, per 501:

    - The Executive Privileges.
    - The Attorney-Client Privilege.
    - The Privilege for Marital Communications.
    - The Physician-Patient Privilege.
    - The Priest-Penitent Privilege.

    The function of society would be disrupted if these people were called to testify what others told them in confidence. How could a person on trial for a crime tell his lawyer the full story for his defense if his lawyer could be called to the stand to testify what his client told him in confidence? No trust would exist. It would seem doubtful that you have such a privilege given the facts you list.
    Forum posts are not legal advice, are for educational purposes only & are not substitutes for proper consultation with legal counsel.

    Need a lawyer? Use TheLaw.com's FREE Case Review now!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    3
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    If this was a case of a husband and wife, how would the marriage privilege work in the state of Texas?

  4. #4
    Registered User Learned Colleague

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    1,236
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
    According to Rule 504 of the Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence a confidential communication, that is a communication made privately and not intended for disclosure to any other person, made between two spouses is privileged. It means the spouse can refuse to disclose this communication. The privilege also extends to the privilege not to be called as a witness for the state. ("Adverse testimony" privilege and "confidential communications" privilege).

    There are two important exceptions, one being cases in which one of the spouses is being charged with a crime against a minor child or any person living in the same household except the spouse. In other words: if the charge would be sexual abuse of the own child, the spouse would not have the privilege to refuse to testify against the other spouse.

    The rules give this privilege only to spouses, not to children or other relatives. A son or a daughter therefore cannot refuse to testify against their parents under this rule.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    3
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Thanks for your reply.....If all seems to apply and the case is not against a child or family member, then how would you go about using the rule? Would you be able to call the courts and just notify them or do you have to appear and tell them at that time?

  6. #6
    Registered User Learned Colleague

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    1,236
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
    It depends on how you are called. If you are subpoenaed you probably will have to go and tell the judge in court.

    If someone only advises you that you will be called to testify, you can call them (for example the DA's office) and tell them you will refuse pursuant to this rule so that they won't bother to call you.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    1
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    testify against minor child

    this is my first post, so please bear with me. I am looking for the law regarding the obligation of a parent to testify against a minor child. Specifically, my 17 year old son was driving a vehicle registered in my name (parent) and received a "photo-radar" citation in the mail. The form requires me to send in a photocopy of my drivers license and then identify the driver. Am I required to testify against my son? If not how should I answer the question. thank you,

    Quote Originally Posted by thelawprofessor
    The legal term is called "privilege" or privileged communication. This is granted only under certain conditions when the sanctity of the communication is necessary for the function of society. It is dealt with under the rules of Evidence. The Federal Rule is number 501 and states have their own rules but it is doubtful that you would have such a privilege, especially since the act you witnessed was not a "communication" that would be private. Some well known privileges are, per 501:

    - The Executive Privileges.
    - The Attorney-Client Privilege.
    - The Privilege for Marital Communications.
    - The Physician-Patient Privilege.
    - The Priest-Penitent Privilege.

    The function of society would be disrupted if these people were called to testify what others told them in confidence. How could a person on trial for a crime tell his lawyer the full story for his defense if his lawyer could be called to the stand to testify what his client told him in confidence? No trust would exist. It would seem doubtful that you have such a privilege given the facts you list.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    1
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    testifying against a spouse

    what if it concerned a case against a spouse who has been accused of having sex with a child in the house and the mother has been subpoenaed and knows of any evidence concerning the case only knows what the child has said in south carolina

Log in

Log in