The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Bill eliminating spousal privilege in domestic violence cases passes Ga. Senate committee

Posted on: 03.16.12

A Georgia Senate committee passed a measure Monday that would do away with a state law that allows a married domestic violence victim to avoid having to testify against their spouse. 

Currently a married victim of domestic violence cannot be subpoenaed to testify in a criminal case against their husband or wife, because of what’s called spousal privilege. But a measure that passed a Georgia Senate Committee would eliminate that privilege.

House Majority Leader and Bill Sponsor Edward Lindsey says the legislation is needed to prevent abusers from pressuring their victims against cooperating with prosecutors.

“Family violence does not happen just once. I’ve seen it over and over in my legal career where someone coerces someone into not testifying the first time, that empowers them, and the violence only escalates from there.”

But Sandra Michaels with the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says victims should continue to have spousal privilege.

“I’m not making light of these situations, they are very serious. But why is the spouse versus the state, what’s the difference of who’s going to tell someone what to do? Why can’t a person make their own decision?”

The legislation will also protect confidential information shared between victims and advocates against domestic violence.

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