Different individuals and groups enjoy special privileges when it comes to whether or not they must reveal information in certain formal proceedings. In addition to the rights of physicians, psychotherapists and social workers not to disclose information from their patients and clients during judicial goings-on, many spouses are granted a similar set of allowances.
Where applicable, spousal privilege permits spouses to not share many private, intimate communications that were made while they were together, and in some states each spouse can prevent the other from testifying about such matters or refuse to do so themselves. Notably, these privileges only apply to communications that were made during legally-recognized marriages, although subsequent divorces do not nullify someone's right to keep earlier communications under wraps. If such communications were overheard by third parties or involve matters such as business, abuse or misconduct, however, they lose protection.
According to legal analysts, disclosure immunity rules vary at the state and federal levels. Some states maintain that if one of the spouses is a defendant in a criminal trial, they have the right to prevent their spouse from making testimony. While spouses cannot be ordered to testify in federal courts, they are still permitted to do so of their own volition even without the approval of their spouse.
Facing criminal charges can throw people's personal lives into a state of upheaval. Prosecutors may leverage their power against family members and other individuals who are not as knowledgeable about the law or the particulars of the case at hand to induce them to testify against their accused loved ones. This could lead to someone placing considerable strain on otherwise healthy relationships after they innocently share information. It's important for those who have been indicted to learn about their rights and protections so that they can build an effective criminal defense.