Domestic relations cases; witness refusal to answer question on ground that it may self-incriminate. (HB14)

Introduced By

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Domestic relations; self-incrimination; adverse inference.  Provides that in actions filed on or after July 1, 2010, for spousal support, custody, or visitation under Title 16.1 or for divorce or separate maintenance filed under Title 20, the court may draw an adverse inference against any party or witness who refuses to answer a question regarding conduct constituting adultery, sodomy, or buggery outside of marriage, or fornication on the ground that the testimony might be self-incriminating. Read the Bill »


02/22/2010: Failed to Pass in Committee


12/07/2009Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/10 10100535D
12/07/2009Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/13/2010Assigned Courts sub: Civil
01/15/2010Assigned Courts sub: Civil
01/18/2010Subcommittee recommends reporting with amendment(s) (11-Y 0-N)
01/27/2010Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (18-Y 4-N) (see vote tally)
01/27/2010Committee substitute printed 10104330D-H1
01/29/2010Read first time
02/01/2010Read second time
02/01/2010Committee substitute agreed to 10104330D-H1
02/01/2010Pending question ordered
02/01/2010Engrossed by House - committee substitute HB14H1
02/02/2010Read third time and passed House (49-Y 48-N)
02/02/2010VOTE: --- PASSAGE (49-Y 48-N) (see vote tally)
02/03/2010Constitutional reading dispensed
02/03/2010Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/17/2010Assigned Courts sub: Civil
02/22/2010Passed by indefinitely in Courts of Justice (12-Y 3-N) (see vote tally)


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 11 clips in all, totaling 19 minutes.

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: HB67.


marsha maines writes:

does this bill actually say CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS are NOT enforced?

Karen Cole writes:

This bill is concerning to say the least. It has been recognized for a long time that a victim’s refusal to speak may be rooted in fear of reprisal by the offender. There really aren't a whole lot of options, but to cite that the testimony might be self-incriminating.

Lloyd Snook writes:

Marsha -- no. The Constitution prohibits a criminal court from using a refusal to answer as proof of guilt. This bill would not tamper with that rule.

Here's the situation that it is supposed to fix. Husband has been cheating on Wife. Wife can prove that Husband spent the night in the bedroom of Girlfriend, because she has had a private investigator following him, but Wife can't prove what happened in the bedroom (i.e. can't prove that there was intercourse) to be able to get a fault-based divorce. If you call Husband to the witness stand, he can take the Fifth Amendment, as can Girlfriend. That leaves you with no proof of adultery.

To Karen: I have a hard time seeing how this would lead to an incorrect inference being used against someone who is physically afraid of telling the truth. First, almost by definition, this statute would have bearing only when the parties are no longer living together. Second, assume that Husband is afraid of telling the truth because Wife has threatened to do a Lorena Bobbitt on him if he cheats on her. Assume that he refuses to answer, allowing the court to conclude that he WAS having sex. It seems to me that the only thing that we would care about is if that conclusion was going to turn out to be incorrect. And I can't see how the conclusion in such a case would be incorrect.