The New Jersey Legislature is expected to limit when a criminal defendant will be allowed to invoke a special privilege barring communications between spouses from being admissible as evidence in court.
Recently, Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill that would create a crime-fraud exception to the marital communications privilege.
This exception is precisely what the New Jersey Supreme Court encouraged lawmakers to do in their ruling in State v. Terry.
According to Mr. Scutari, the privilege “was intended to protect the privacy of married couples and the sanctity of marriage.”
However, he continued, “in practice … [it] can shield those who have engaged in unlawful acts from criminal prosecution.”
He added, “This legislation recognizes the importance of marital privacy but also ensures that individuals engaged in illegal activity and who potentially pose a serious risk to the public are not able to escape prosecution by taking advantage of the process.”
This law would transform text messages and phone call recordings between spouses into admissible evidence that can be used to incriminate one or both of them for offenses like drug trafficking and other drug crimes so long as the communication related to an ongoing or future crime.
Chief Justice Rabner noted in the Terry case, “The marital communications privilege is meant to encourage marital harmony, not to protect the planning or commission of crimes.”
Likewise, Assemblywoman Linda Stender is prepared to introduce a corresponding measure in the New Jersey State Assembly.
Once both measures are introduced, debated, and passed, they will be merged into a cohesive bill that will go to Governor Chris Christie.
If you recently were charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact Rosenblum Law today at 888-815-3649.