Change To Spousal Privilege Following Drug Distribution Case?
- September 11, 2014
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Yolanda Terry, Teron Savoy and multiple others were charged with conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute as well as distribution of cocaine and heroin (N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, 2C:35-5a and 2C:35-5b(1)). Teron Savoy and his wife, Yolanda Terry, were part of an alleged drug manufacturing and trafficking network along with approximately 20 others. Savoy was also charged as a leader of a drug trafficking network (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-3) and possession with intent to distribute heroin (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(3). As a result of their observations of Savoy and others including Terry who purportedly worked under Savoy, the State obtained a warrant to intercept communications of Savoy and others. In State v. Yolanda Terry, the spousal communication privilege was determined to protect communications between husband and wife even in the event that such communications are in furtherance of ongoing or future criminal activity. The NJ Supreme Court, in upholding the privilege and suppressing communications intercepted by the State through a wiretap of Yolanda Terry’s phone, did make clear that upholding the privilege in the face of criminal activity was likely contrary to the Legislative intent. Although communications were overheard and therefore would be disclosed by the State as a third party they do not lose their privileged status according to N.J.S.A. 2A:156-11, a provision of the NJ Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-1 to -37). In rendering its unanimous opinion the NJ Supreme Court held that although safeguarded under current legislation, the marital privilege is intended to encourage communication between spouses with the goal of harmonious marriages and is not intended to further spouses engaged in joint criminal enterprise. Also included in the opinion of the Court was the fact that multiple other privileges are set aside under exception when ongoing or future criminal activity is furthered by said privileges. An example included in the opinion of the Court was Matthews v. Hoagland, 48 N.J. Eq. 455, 465-70 (Ch. 1891) where the “crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege was recognized in New Jersey common law in the case that first acknowledged the privilege itself.” As a result of this case, the NJ Supreme Court petitioned the Legislature to modify New Jersey Rule of Evidence 509 to create an exception when the marital privilege serves to further criminal acts. If you have been charged with drug related crimes or were charged with criminal activity as a result of a wiretap, you should obtain experienced criminal defense counsel immediately. For more information about controlled dangerous substances (CDS) including possession, manufacturing, distribution or possession with the intent to distribute, CDS in a motor vehicle or driving under the influence (DUI) as a result of ingesting CDS visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.