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‘Adverse inference’ bill alive, but barely

A bill to allow divorce judges to assume the worst if a spouse takes the Fifth on questions about adultery has cleared a House committee by a single vote.

The measure, HB 14 , was passed by the House Courts of Justice Committee 49-48. It’s now in the hands of the Senate Courts committee, where senators no doubt will take notice of the close vote on the House side.

As we reported last month , the measure would allow a judge to draw an adverse inference if a party or witness refuses, on the ground of self-incrimination, to answer a question about adultery or certain other sexual crimes.

The legislation was proposed by the Virginia Family Law Coalition in reaction to what was seen as inconsistent positions by Virginia judges on how to handle the silence of an accused adulterer. The concept was earlier approved by the Boyd-Graves Conference.

By Peter Vieth

One comment

  1. It is high time that this bill passed. Otherwise, it makes a mockery of the statute.

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