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Change could permit ‘marital communication’ to be used in court

An amendment to a New Jersey law barring disclosure of confidential communication between married couples could have far-reaching ramifications in criminal cases involving spouses as defendants.

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Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Brick) has ordered the bill to be drafted, following a recommendation by the New Jersey Supreme Court to add a “crime fraud exception” to the marital communication privilege. The need for the amendment arose from a drug trafficking case involving an Ocean County couple. The High Court ruled spouses should not be privileged if the conversations take place as part of a criminal activity.

Given the proposal’s potential far-reaching ramifications, McGuckin said strong opposition is likely.

“I would imagine there will be a number of interest groups that will weigh in and oppose it, and/or suggest changes,” McGuckin said.

McGuckin expects the bill to be introduced in September and is hoping it can be passed quickly, so it can be applied before the Lakewood couple’s case reaches trial. However, he said he’s “not a big fan of legislation to address one particular case.”

“I think that legislation that stands the test of time is something that’s going to apply for cases for long into the future,” McGuckin said.

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