Criminal Virginia Lawyer Fairfax Grounds Adultery Code 20-95
Bruce v Commonwealth
Plaintiff wife brought a divorce action against defendant husband on the grounds of adultery. The husband cross-claimed for divorce on the grounds of reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt under Va. Code Ann. § 20-95. The court reasoned that, while such a negative inference was not allowed in a criminal proceeding, the invocation of the privilege in the civil divorce permitted the negative inference because the husband had effectively shielded himself from criminal prosecution but that the shield did not extend to protect him from the court’s negative inference. The court found no evidence to support the husband’s claim of apprehension of bodily hurt.
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The Virginia Court made the following holding:
- A charge of adultery is one of a criminal offense and especially and uniquely damaging to the reputation of the party charged. The general and widely recognized presumption of innocence must be indulged against it, and, while it is not required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, as in a criminal proceeding, the evidence must be at least clear and positive and convincing.
- When a party witness in a civil proceeding uses the privilege against self-incrimination to protect himself from the criminal consequences of his testimony, the shield has served its ultimate purpose. In furthering this purpose the party as a consequence may prevent the admission of highly relevant and material evidence, but by doing so he cannot extend the shield to gain protection against additional civil consequences, in particular the drawing of inferences from his failure to testify.
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Article written by A Sris
These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.