Husband-wife and domestic partner privilege. 905.05(1)(1)
General rule of privilege.
A person has a privilege to prevent the person's spouse or former spouse or domestic partner or former domestic partner from testifying against the person as to any private communication by one to the other made during their marriage or domestic partnership. As used in this section, “domestic partner" means a domestic partner under ch. 770
(2) Who may claim the privilege.
The privilege may be claimed by the person or by the spouse or domestic partner on the person's behalf. The authority of the spouse or domestic partner to do so is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
There is no privilege under this rule:
If both spouses or former spouses or domestic partners or former domestic partners are parties to the action.
In proceedings in which one spouse or former spouse or domestic partner or former domestic partner is charged with a crime against the person or property of the other or of a child of either, or with a crime against the person or property of a 3rd person committed in the course of committing a crime against the other.
In proceedings in which a spouse or former spouse or domestic partner or former domestic partner is charged with a crime of pandering or prostitution.
If one spouse or former spouse or domestic partner or former domestic partner has acted as the agent of the other and the private communication relates to matters within the scope of the agency.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R130 (1973); 1991 a. 32
; 2009 a. 28
As to testimony of husband and wife in paternity action regarding child born in wedlock, see s. 891.39
A wife's testimony as to statements made by her husband was admissible when the statements were made in the presence of two witnesses. Abraham v. State, 47 Wis. 2d 44
, 176 N.W.2d 349
Spouses can be compelled to testify as to whether the other was working or collecting unemployment insurance, since such facts are known to third persons. Kain v. State, 48 Wis. 2d 212
, 179 N.W.2d 777
A wife's observation, without her husband's knowledge, of her husband's criminal act committed on a public street was neither a “communication" nor “private" within meaning of sub. (1). State v. Sabin, 79 Wis. 2d 302
, 255 N.W.2d 320
The privilege under sub. (1) belongs to the person against whom testimony is being offered. While an accused may invoke the privilege to prevent his or her spouse from testifying against him or her, the witness spouse may not invoke it to prevent his or her own testimony. Umhoefer v. Police and Fire Commission of the City of Mequon, 2002 WI App 217
, 257 Wis. 2d. 539, 652 N.W.2d 412
Under sub. (3) (b), it is irrelevant whether the acts of the defendant that constitute a crime against a third party are the same acts that constitute a crime against the spouse or different acts. State v. Richard G.B., 2003 WI App 13
, 259 Wis. 2d 730
, 656 N.W.2d 469
When all outgoing telephone calls made by inmates of a jail were recorded and that policy was disclosed to all inmates, the defendant knowingly exposed the content of the call to a third party. That constituted a waiver of any marital privilege. State v. Eison, 2011 WI App 52
, 332 Wis. 2d 331
, 797 N.W.2d 890
Communications to members of the clergy. 905.06(1)(1)
As used in this section:
A “member of the clergy" is a minister, priest, rabbi, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting the individual.
A communication is “confidential" if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present in furtherance of the purpose of the communication.
(2) General rule of privilege.
A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another from disclosing a confidential communication by the person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional character as a spiritual adviser.
(3) Who may claim the privilege.
The privilege may be claimed by the person, by the person's guardian or conservator, or by the person's personal representative if the person is deceased. The member of the clergy may claim the privilege on behalf of the person. The member of the clergy's authority so to do is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
There is no privilege under this section concerning observations or information that a member of the clergy, as defined in s. 48.981 (1) (cx)
, is required to report as suspected or threatened child abuse under s. 48.981 (2) (bm)
or as a threat of violence in or targeted at a school under s. 175.32
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R135 (1973); 1991 a. 32
; 2003 a. 279
; 2005 a. 253
; 2017 a. 143
An out-of-court disclosure by a priest that the defendant would lead police to the victim's grave was not privileged under this section. State v. Kunkel, 137 Wis. 2d 172
, 404 N.W.2d 69
(Ct. App. 1987).
Should Clergy Hold the Priest-Penitent Privilege? Mazza. 82 MLR 171 (1998).
Honesty testing devices. 905.065(1)(1)
In this section, “honesty testing device" means a polygraph, voice stress analysis, psychological stress evaluator or any other similar test purporting to test honesty.
(2) General rule of the privilege.
A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another from disclosing any oral or written communications during or any results of an examination using an honesty testing device in which the person was the test subject.
(3) Who may claim privilege.
The privilege may be claimed by the person, by the person's guardian or conservator or by the person's personal representative, if the person is deceased.
There is no privilege under this section if there is a valid and voluntary written agreement between the test subject and the person administering the test.
History: 1979 c. 319
A distinction exists between an inquiry into the taking of a polygraph and an inquiry into its results. An offer to take a polygraph is relevant to an assessment of an offeror's credibility. State v. Wofford, 202 Wis. 2d 523
, 551 N.W.2d 46
(Ct. App. 1996), 95-0979
The results of polygraph examinations are inadmissible in civil cases. While an offer to take a polygraph examination may be relevant to the offeror's credibility, that a person agreed to a polygraph at the request of law enforcement has not been found admissible and could not be without proof that the person believed the results would accurately indicate whether he or she was lying. Estate of Neumann v. Neumann, 2001 WI App 61
, 242 Wis. 2d 205
, 626 N.W.2d 821
Every person has a privilege to refuse to disclose the tenor of the person's vote at a political election conducted by secret ballot unless the vote was cast illegally.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R139 (1973); 1991 a. 32
A person has a privilege, which may be claimed by the person or the person's agent or employee, to refuse to disclose and to prevent other persons from disclosing a trade secret as defined in s. 134.90 (1) (c)
, owned by the person, if the allowance of the privilege will not tend to conceal fraud or otherwise work injustice. When disclosure is directed, the judge shall take such protective measure as the interests of the holder of the privilege and of the parties and the furtherance of justice may require.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R140 (1973); 1985 a. 236
Law enforcement records.
The federal government or a state or a subdivision thereof has a privilege to refuse to disclose investigatory files, reports and returns for law enforcement purposes except to the extent available by law to a person other than the federal government, a state or subdivision thereof. The privilege may be claimed by an appropriate representative of the federal government, a state or a subdivision thereof.
History: Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R142 (1973).
Identity of informer. 905.10(1)(1)
Rule of privilege.
The federal government or a state or subdivision thereof has a privilege to refuse to disclose the identity of a person who has furnished information relating to or assisting in an investigation of a possible violation of law to a law enforcement officer or member of a legislative committee or its staff conducting an investigation.
(2) Who may claim.
The privilege may be claimed by an appropriate representative of the federal government, regardless of whether the information was furnished to an officer of the government or of a state or subdivision thereof. The privilege may be claimed by an appropriate representative of a state or subdivision if the information was furnished to an officer thereof.
Voluntary disclosure; informer a witness.
No privilege exists under this rule if the identity of the informer or the informer's interest in the subject matter of the informer's communication has been disclosed to those who would have cause to resent the communication by a holder of the privilege or by the informer's own action, or if the informer appears as a witness for the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof.
Testimony on merits.
If it appears from the evidence in the case or from other showing by a party that an informer may be able to give testimony necessary to a fair determination of the issue of guilt or innocence in a criminal case or of a material issue on the merits in a civil case to which the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof is a party, and the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof invokes the privilege, the judge shall give the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof an opportunity to show in camera facts relevant to determining whether the informer can, in fact, supply that testimony. The showing will ordinarily be in the form of affidavits but the judge may direct that testimony be taken if the judge finds that the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily upon affidavit. If the judge finds that there is a reasonable probability that the informer can give the testimony, and the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof elects not to disclose the informer's identity, the judge on motion of the defendant in a criminal case shall dismiss the charges to which the testimony would relate, and the judge may do so on the judge's own motion. In civil cases, the judge may make an order that justice requires. Evidence submitted to the judge shall be sealed and preserved to be made available to the appellate court in the event of an appeal, and the contents shall not otherwise be revealed without consent of the federal government, state or subdivision thereof. All counsel and parties shall be permitted to be present at every stage of proceedings under this subdivision except a showing in camera at which no counsel or party shall be permitted to be present.
Legality of obtaining evidence.
If information from an informer is relied upon to establish the legality of the means by which evidence was obtained and the judge is not satisfied that the information was received from an informer reasonably believed to be reliable or credible, the judge may require the identity of the informer to be disclosed. The judge shall on request of the federal government, state or subdivision thereof, direct that the disclosure be made in camera. All counsel and parties concerned with the issue of legality shall be permitted to be present at every stage of proceedings under this subdivision except a disclosure in camera at which no counsel or party shall be permitted to be present. If disclosure of the identity of the informer is made in camera, the record thereof shall be sealed and preserved to be made available to the appellate court in the event of an appeal, and the contents shall not otherwise be revealed without consent of the appropriate federal government, state or subdivision thereof.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R143 (1973); 1991 a. 32
The trial judge incorrectly determined whether an informer's testimony was necessary to a fair trial. The proper test is whether the testimony the informer can give is relevant to an issue material to the defense and necessary to the determination of guilt or innocence. It is not for the judge to determine whether the testimony will be helpful. State v. Outlaw, 108 Wis. 2d 112
, 321 N.W.2d 145
The application of the informer privilege to communications tending to identify the informer and consideration by the trial court under sub. (3) (c) of the privileged information in determining reasonable suspicion for an investigative seizure is discussed. State v. Gordon, 159 Wis. 2d 335
, 464 N.W.2d 91
(Ct. App. 1990).
When the defendant knew an informer's identity but sought to put the informer's role as an informer before the jury to support his defense that the informer actually committed the crime, the judge erred in not permitting the jury to hear the evidence. State v. Gerard, 180 Wis. 2d 327
, 509 N.W.2d 112
(Ct. App. 1993).
The state is the holder of the privilege; disclosure by an informer's attorney is not “by the informer's own action." The privilege does not die with the informer. State v. Lass, 194 Wis. 2d 592
, 535 N.W.2d 904
(Ct. App. 1995).
When there was sufficient evidence in the record to permit a rational court to conclude that a reasonable probability existed that the informer could provide relevant testimony necessary to a fair determination on the issue of guilt or innocence, the decision to forego an in camera hearing was within the discretion of the trial court. State v. Norfleet, 2002 WI App 140
, 254 Wis. 2d 569
, 647 N.W.2d 341
Once a defendant has made an initial showing that there is a reasonable probability that an informer may be able to give testimony necessary to the determination of guilt or innocence, the state has the opportunity to show, in camera, facts relevant to whether the informer can provide that testimony. Only if the court determines that an informer's testimony is necessary to the defense in that it could create a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt, must the privilege to not disclose the informer give way. The state may present evidence that an informer's testimony is unnecessary. State v. Vanmanivong, 2003 WI 41
, 261 Wis. 2d 202
, 661 N.W.2d 76
The trial court erred when upon finding affidavits of confidential informers insufficient it, on its own initiative and without contacting either party's attorney, requested additional information from law enforcement. If affidavits are insufficient, the court must hold an in camera hearing and take the testimony of the informers to determine if their testimony is relevant and material to the defendant's defense. State v. Vanmanivong, 2003 WI 41
, 261 Wis. 2d 202
, 661 N.W.2d 76
The required showing to trigger an in camera review under sub. (3) (b) is a reasonable possibility, grounded in the facts and circumstances of the case, that a confidential informer may have information necessary to the defendant's theory of defense. The phrase “may be able to give testimony" confirms that the defendant's initial burden under the statute involves only a possibility the confidential informer may have information necessary to the defense, but it must be a reasonable possibility. A circuit court should consider all of the evidence to determine whether to grant an in camera review, not just the contents of the defendant's motion. State v. Nellessen, 2014 WI 84
, 360 Wis. 2d 493
, 849 N.W.2d 654
. State v. Toliver, 2014 WI 85
, 356 Wis. 2d 642
, 851 N.W.2d 251
Waiver of privilege by voluntary disclosure.
A person upon whom this chapter confers a privilege against disclosure of the confidential matter or communication waives the privilege if the person or his or her predecessor, while holder of the privilege, voluntarily discloses or consents to disclosure of any significant part of the matter or communication. This section does not apply if the disclosure is itself a privileged communication.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R150 (1973); 1987 a. 355
; Sup. Ct. Order No. 93-03
,179 Wis. 2d xv (1993).
Testimony of an accomplice who waived her privilege is admissible even though she had not been tried or granted immunity. State v. Wells, 51 Wis. 2d 477
, 187 N.W.2d 328
A litigant's request to see his or her file that is in the possession of current or former counsel does not waive the attorney-client and work-product privileges and does not allow other parties to the litigation discovery of those files. Borgwardt v. Redlin, 196 Wis. 2d 342
, 538 N.W.2d 581
(Ct. App. 1995), 94-2701
A lawyer's voluntary production of documents in response to opposing counsel's discovery request does not constitute a waiver of the attorney-client privilege under this section when the lawyer does not recognize that the documents are subject to the attorney-client privilege and the documents are produced without the consent or knowledge of the client. The agency doctrine does not apply to waiver of attorney-client privilege as it relates to privileged documents. Harold Sampson Trust v. Linda Gale Sampson Trust, 2004 WI 57
, 271 Wis. 2d 610
, 679 N.W.2d 794
The controlling principle of waiver is the privilege holder's voluntary disclosure of any significant part of the matter or communication. It is clear from the terms of this section that a matter or communication can have several “significant parts." The significance of any portion of a communication is measured by the importance of its subject matter to the overall communication. State v. Schmidt, 2016 WI App 45
, 370 Wis. 2d 139
, 884 N.W.2d 510
Privileged matter disclosed under compulsion or without opportunity to claim privilege.
Evidence of a statement or other disclosure of privileged matter is not admissible against the holder of the privilege if the disclosure was (a) compelled erroneously or (b) made without opportunity to claim the privilege.
History: Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R151 (1973).
Comment upon or inference from claim of privilege; instruction. 905.13(1)(1)
Comment or inference not permitted.
The claim of a privilege, whether in the present proceeding or upon a prior occasion, is not a proper subject of comment by judge or counsel. No inference may be drawn therefrom.
(2) Claiming privilege without knowledge of jury.
In jury cases, proceedings shall be conducted, to the extent practicable, so as to facilitate the making of claims of privilege without the knowledge of the jury.
(3) Jury instruction.
Upon request, any party against whom the jury might draw an adverse inference from a claim of privilege is entitled to an instruction that no inference may be drawn therefrom.
(4) Application; self-incrimination.
do not apply in a civil case with respect to the privilege against self-incrimination.
Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R153 (1973); 1981 c. 390
The prohibition against allowing comments on or drawing an inference from a third-party witness's refusal to testify on 5th amendment grounds does not deny a criminal defendant's constitutional right to equal protection. State v. Heft, 185 Wis. 2d 289
, 517 N.W.2d 494
Privilege in crime victim compensation proceedings. 905.14(1)(1)
Except as provided in sub. (2)
, no privilege under this chapter exists regarding communications or records relevant to an issue of the physical, mental or emotional condition of the claimant or victim in a proceeding under ch. 949
in which that condition is an element.
The lawyer-client privilege applies in a proceeding under ch. 949
History: 1979 c. 189
Privilege in use of federal tax return information. 905.15(1)(1)
An employee of the department of health services, the department of children and families or a county department under s. 46.215
or a member of a governing body of a federally recognized American Indian tribe who is authorized by federal law to have access to or awareness of the federal tax return information of another in the performance of duties under s. 49.19
or 7 USC 2011
may claim privilege to refuse to disclose the information and the source or method by which he or she received or otherwise became aware of the information.
An employee or member specified in sub. (1)
may not waive the right to privilege under sub. (1)
or disclose federal tax return information or the source of that information except as provided by federal law.
Communications to veteran mentors. 905.16(1)(1)
As used in this section:
A communication is “confidential" if not intended to be disclosed to 3rd parties other than to those persons present to further the interests of the veteran or member or to persons reasonably necessary for the transmission of the communication.
A “veteran mentor" is an individual who meets all of the following criteria:
Served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces or in forces incorporated in the U.S. armed forces, served in a reserve unit of the U.S. armed forces, or served in the national guard.
Has successfully completed a judicially approved veterans mentoring training program.
Has completed a background information form approved by a circuit court judge from a county that is participating in a veterans mentoring program.