DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Abby Michaels, an Ohio woman accused of intentionally driving the wrong way on I-75 and causing a crash that killed a family of three in 2019, requested for her ex-husband’s testimony to be excluded from her trial.
The request was made citing spousal privilege law — But what exactly is that?
In simple terms, under Ohio law, things said or done by spouses in each other’s presence, as long as no third party is present, are protected. This is known as spousal privilege.
The marital privilege ensures that those who are married are able to communicate freely and that spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other in court.
In Ohio, this privilege continues even if parties are no longer married. As long the events took place during the marriage, the privilege still applies.
Spousal privilege was originally intended to protect confidential communications that promote marital peace, preserve marital confidence, are made in reliance of the special trust and confidence in the relationship, according to an analysis by the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
Not all communications between married spouses are confidential of this nature, so not all communications are protected by privilege, the analysis states.
The spousal privilege does not apply when spouses are living apart, but this does not mean the spouses have to be legally separated.
Additionally, a husband or wife can still choose to testify against their spouse voluntarily, under certain circumstances.
The testifying spouse must, however, demonstrate that they have been living in separate places for a period of time and not in frequent communication.
Ohio’s law regarding spousal privilege can be read in full here.