The uniform rules of evidence were promulgated in 1974 with the primary role of achieving uniformity of the law in all states (Barnhart, 1963). The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law (NCCUSL) is attributed with the introduction of the law. The law provides unity of state rules of evidence in relation to federal rules of evidence. This is achieved through simplification and codification of rules on what is regarded evidence in any criminal or civil trial in a law court. In criminal proceedings, a spouse of an accused has the privilege to refuse to testify against the accused spouse. However, the privilege is not extended to encapsulate civil proceedings where the spouses are adverse parties. Another exception of the privilege is criminal proceedings where a prima facie indicates that the spouses were jointly involved in committing a criminal offence (Gard, 1956).
Trammel v. United States, Supreme Court of the United States, 1980.
The traditional common law privilege was modified permitting the accused to render his spouse incompetent to testify in criminal federal cases. Trammel was accused for conspiracy and heroin importation (Mullane, 1995). To put his case in trial, his spouse was given federal immunity in exchange for her testimony. Trammel asserted the testimonial privilege that disqualified his wife from testifying against him. However, the court denied the motion permitting the wife to testify in actions she witnessed during the marriage that implicated the third parties. The appeal granted certiorari and held. The testimonial privilege enables the defendant to disqualify his spouse from testifying. It is an evidentiary rule that is founded on policy and not a constitutional right. Therefore, the defendant can invoke the privilege irrespective of the content or nature of the testimony on account that the criminal offence occurred when they were married legally (Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com, 2014). When a spouse is the witness, they may adversely refuse to testify and may not be compelled to do so.
Barnhart, R. (1963). Privilege in the Uniform Rules of Evidence. Ohio St. LJ, 24, 131.
Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com,. (2014). FindLaw | Cases and Codes. Retrieved 16 September 2014, from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=445&invol=40
Gard, S. (1956). Uniform Rules of Evidence. Tul. L. Rev., 31, 19.
Mullane, M. (1995). Trammel v. United States: Bad History, Bad Policy, and Bad Law. Me. L. Rev.,47, 105.