Use of Work Computer Results in Waiver of Marital Communication Privilege

“On appeal, the defendant argued that the Trial Court erred by admitting into evidence incriminating emails he had sent to his wife.  The defendant claimed that the marital communications privilege, which generally provides that private communications between spouses are confidential, protected the emails from disclosure.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed, relying in large part on the employer’s written computer policy.  The policy stated that employees had “no expectation of privacy in their use of the Computer System” and that all information “created, sent, received, accessed, or stored . . . [was] subject to inspection and monitoring.” Although the defendant argued that the emails were sent before the computer policy was enacted, the Court found that he waived the marital communications privilege because he took no steps to protect the previous emails even after the computer policy was enacted.”

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