State v. Clevenger

In State v. Clevenger, 69 Wn.2d 136, 417 P.2d 626, 631 (Wash. 1966), the Washington Supreme Court found unpersuasive the criminal defendant's argument that retroactive application of an amendment to the marital communications privilege was erroneous because the legislature did not expressly state the amendment was retroactive. Id. In Clevenger, the marital communications privilege was very similar to our privilege: "Nor can either during marriage or afterward, be without the consent of the order, examined as to any communication made by one to the other during marriage." 417 P.2d at 629. The Washington legislature added an exception to the privilege that provided: a spouse cannot invoke the privilege in a criminal prosecution "for a crime committed by said husband or wife against any child of whom said husband or wife is the parent or guardian." Id. at 631. The court held that because "the privilege is not asserted at the time the action is filed but only when the testimony of the spouse is offered at a trial or hearing," "the fair meaning of the statute is that it shall apply in trials or hearings which are held after the effective date of the act"; thus, applying the restriction of the privilege to later testimony is prospective in nature. Id.