N.J. might end spousal immunity in cases where couple is accused in same crime

A New Jersey Assembly Committee has advanced a measure to amend a law protecting the privacy of communications between married partners.

The proposed change would eliminate marital privilege protections when both spouses are involved in the same criminal activity.

That revision, said Assembly Judiciary Committee chairman John McKeon, would strike a balance between marital and civil union privacy and the public’s interest in attaining justice.

“The marital privilege historically, whether it was common law or codified in our evidence rules or otherwise, was never meant to have two spouses that were engaged in nefarious activity be able to use that as a shield,” said McKeon, D-Essex.

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The New Jersey Supreme Court urged lawmakers to act on the issue after the justices ruled that current evidence law does not allow prosecutors to use intercepted phone calls and text messages between a husband and wife who were allegedly involved in a drug-trafficking ring.

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