You’ve seen the movie. The leading man’s girl knows too much about the crime. The solution: Get married! Then, she can’t be forced to testify.

But is that how it works in real life? For the most part, the answer is yes. But there are exceptions.

Under 725 ILCS 5/115-16, spouses may testify against each other but not as to any communications made between them during their marriage. For the marital privilege to apply, the communicating spouse must intend to convey a confidential message made in reliance on the confidence of the marital relationship.

The marital privilege does have limits. The communication must be confidential. It is not confidential if the communication is made before a third party. The third party may testify about what you said even if the third party was eavesdropping. Likewise, the third party may testify about written marital communications that he or she got through interception, loss or mistaken delivery.

Spouses may be compelled to testify against each other when they are involved in a joint criminal enterprise. As such, Bonnie could be forced to testify against Clyde. Your spouse may also testify if he or she acted as your agent.

Naturally, the privilege does not apply if you commit an offense against your spouse, their property or a minor child in either spouse’s care.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Is your spouse a witness in your case? Under the right circumstances, an attorney may be able to petition the court to exclude their testimony.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

See People v. Gliniewicz.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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