Bill Text: NJ S2909 | 2012-2013 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Modifies spousal or civil union partner privilege against testifying in criminal actions to prevent invoking of privilege under certain circumstances.

Status: (Introduced - Dead) 2013-06-27 - Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee [S2909 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2012-S2909-Introduced.html

SENATE, No. 2909

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED JUNE 27, 2013

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  THOMAS H. KEAN, JR.

District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Modifies spousal or civil union partner privilege against testifying in criminal actions to prevent invoking of privilege under certain circumstances.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the spousal or civil union partner privilege against testifying in criminal actions, and amending P.L.1960, c.52.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 17 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-17) is amended to read as follows:

     17.  Privilege of accused.

     (1)   Every person has in any criminal action in which he is an accused a right not to be called as a witness and not to testify. 

     (2)   The spouse or one partner in a civil union couple of the accused in a criminal action shall not testify in such action except to prove the fact of marriage or civil union unless (a) such spouse or partner consents, or (b) the accused is charged with an offense against the spouse or partner, a child of the accused or of the spouse or partner, or a child to whom the accused or the spouse or partner stands in the place of a parent, or (c) such spouse or partner is the complainant, or (d) such spouse or partner, prior to entering into marriage or a civil union with the accused, is a witness in the criminal action and then marries or joins in civil union with the accused, either after the spouse or partner, or the accused, becomes aware that the accused was being investigated in the criminal action, or after the accused was charged in that criminal action, or (e) such spouse or partner handles evidence related to the criminal action in a manner that changes the nature of the evidence or disrupts its chain of custody.

     (3)   An accused in a criminal action has no privilege to refuse when ordered by the judge, to submit his body to examination or to do any act in the presence of the judge or the trier of the fact, except to refuse to testify. 

(cf: P.L.2006, c.103, s.90)

 

     2.    Section 22 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-22) is amended to read as follows:

     22.  [Rule 28.]  Marital or Civil Union Partner privilege--Confidential communications.

     No person shall disclose any communication made in confidence between such person and his or her spouse or partner in a civil union couple unless both shall consent to the disclosure or unless the communication is relevant to an issue in an action between them or in a criminal action or proceeding in which either spouse or partner in a civil union couple consents to the disclosure, or in a criminal action or proceeding coming within [Rule 23(2)] paragraph (2) of section 17 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-17), which is further enumerated under Article V of the Rules of Evidence in accordance with Rule 500 of those rules. When a spouse or partner in a civil union couple is incompetent or deceased, consent to the disclosure may be given for such spouse or partner by the guardian, executor or administrator. The requirement for consent shall not terminate with divorce or separation. A communication between spouses or partners in a civil union couple while living separate and apart under a divorce from bed and board shall not be a privileged communication. 

(cf: P.L.1992, c.142, s.2)

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately and, to the fullest extent consistent with constitutional restrictions, shall apply to all criminal actions regardless of the date on which the offense was committed or the action initiated.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill modifies the spousal or civil union partner privilege against testifying in criminal actions to prevent the invoking of such privilege by a spouse or one partner in a civil union couple under the following circumstances:

     (1) such spouse or partner, prior to entering into marriage or a civil union with an accused, is a witness in the criminal action and then marries or joins in civil union with the accused, either after the spouse or partner, or the accused, becomes aware that the accused was being investigated in the criminal action, or after the accused was charged in that criminal action; or

     (2) such spouse or partner handles evidence related to the criminal action in a manner that changes the nature of the evidence or disrupts its chain of custody.

     The bill responds to the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in State v. Mauti, 208 N.J. 519 (2012).  The Court considered whether the existing spousal/partner privilege against testifying, as set forth in section 17 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-17), could be pierced to force a witness, who at the time of an alleged criminal sexual assault, was the girlfriend of the accused, and who had provided testimony before a grand jury concerning (1) the alleged criminal act and (2) her handling of evidence related to that act; soon after, the girlfriend and the accused got married, and the day after the marriage, the former girlfriend, now wife of the accused, invoked spousal privilege and refused to testify in the trial of the accused.  The Court determined that the invoking of the spousal privilege by the former girlfriend could not be pierced for the trial, based upon the existing statutory scope of the privilege.  Although the accused had been indicted for four crimes, including first degree aggravated sexual assault (under N.J.S.2C:14-2), without the benefit of testimony from the witness, the jury only convicted the accused of third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact (under N.J.S.2C:14-3).

     In addition to modifying the spousal or civil union partner privilege with the new exceptions as outlined above, the bill intends to ensure the consistent and proper application of these privilege exceptions by amending an additional, corresponding statute concerning confidential communications between spouses (section 22 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-22), to update this statute with references for civil union couples, as well as correct the citation in this statute for the statutory source of the spousal/partner privilege set forth in section 17 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-17), which is further enumerated by the Court under current Article V of the Rules of Evidence in accordance with Rule 500 of those rules.

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