skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 77786 Find in a Library
Title: Evolutionary Development of Marital Privileges in Federal Criminal Trials - Constricting the Invocation and Growth of Spousal Privileges in Federal Criminal Cases by Interpreting the Common Law in the 'Light of Reason and Experience'
Journal: National Journal of Criminal Defense  Volume:6  Issue:2  Dated:(Fall 1980)  Pages:99-162
Author(s): W P Haney
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 64
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The impact of Rule 501 (pertaining to witness privileges) in the Federal Rules of Evidence is examined in relevant court decisions, and the effects of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trammel v. United States on the confidential communications and anti-marital facts privileges are analyzed.
Abstract: Rule 501 states, 'Except as otherwise required by the Constitution of the United States or provided by Act of Congress or in rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority, the privilege of a witness, person, government, State, or political subdivision thereof shall be governed by the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the courts of the United States in the light of reason and experience.' Prior to the passage of the Federal Rules, the Federal courts began the development of a body of law to govern the law of spousal privilege. The Supreme Court's decision in Hawkins v. United States (1958) held that a defendant had the right to bar his/her spouse from providing adverse testimony, even should the spouse volunteer to offer such testimony. The Court did, however, make the reservation that the decision 'does not foreclose whatever changes in the rule may eventually be dictated by 'reason and experience.'' 'Until 1980, the practical effect of rule 501 was to contine the Hawkins rule. On February 27, 1980, however, in Trammel v. United States, the Supreme Court abolished the feature of the Hawkins rule that permitted a defendant marital partner to prevent adverse spousal testimony unilaterally. The Court modified the rule so that the witness spouse alone has the privilege to refuse to testify adversely. Implications flowing from this decision are discussed. A total of 299 notes are listed.
Index Term(s): Judicial decisions; Marital privilege; Rules of evidence; US Supreme Court
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.