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Relevant text:

Sneak Attack

Beginning at 1st level, you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe's distraction. Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an Attack if you have advantage on the Attack roll. The Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon.

You don't need advantage on the Attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn't Incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the Attack roll.

The amount of the extra damage increases as you gain levels in this class, as shown in the Sneak Attack column of the Rogue table.

Spiritual Weapon

You create a floating, spectral weapon within range that lasts for the duration or until you cast this spell again. When you cast the spell, you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon. On a hit, the target takes force damage equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

As a bonus action on your turn, you can move the weapon up to 20 feet and repeat the attack against a creature within 5 feet of it.

The weapon can take whatever form you choose. Clerics of deities who are associated with a particular weapon (as St. Cuthbert is known for his mace and Thor for his hammer) make this spell’s effect resemble that weapon.

My DM ruled that it granted Sneak Attack, based on the fact that a floating spectral weapon would be just as distracting as a live creature, but I could see a case for either

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It's a DM ruling, but I'd say no.

As you show, nothing in the text of the spell discusses whether it's a valid helper for sneak attack. Therefore, we have to look at other factors.

The Sneak Attack text says,

you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe's distraction.

But is a spiritual weapon distracting? Note that it doesn't do anything unless ordered by its caster. In particular, it can't make opportunity attacks. Consider the text for opportunity attacks:

In a fight, everyone is constantly watching for enemies to drop their guard. You can rarely move heedlessly past your foes without putting yourself in danger; doing so provokes an opportunity attack.

However, you can move heedlessly past a spiritual weapon, because it's not on guard and looking for an advantage. In the absence of any other text, it's simply floating there until commanded. Thus, on your turn, it's not posing an immediate threat the way another creature would.

Additionally, Sage Advice says no, though without an explanation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like your opportunity attacks comparison. But would a sufficiently unintelligent creature be able to tell that the weapon acts only on command of a cleric? Something as smart as a dog, for instance, would only understand that this weapon is flying at him and hitting him and would probably try to to attack it (or at least be distracted by it). Kind of like my dog tries to attack brooms \$\endgroup\$ – OzzyM Apr 18 '17 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that's a level of granularity that 5e generally leaves up to the DM. While I definitely agree that different creatures will behave differently based on their intelligence, I can't imagine the morass that would ensue if there were different combat rules based on different intelligence levels... \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Apr 18 '17 at 18:07
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No, Spiritual Weapon does not count as a creature for the purposes of Sneak Attack

See the Sage Advice here.

Peter Müller @ptr_mlr

@JeremyECrawford Sneak Attack is possible when an enemy of the target is within 5 feet. Does a SPIRITUAL WEAPON count as such an enemy?


Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford

@ptr_mlr Nope.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it because the weapon cannot be attacked and thus does not constitute an enemy? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 18 '17 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 It is because it is not a creature at all. For example, SW doesn't have a reaction for an opportunity attack, either. It is unlike spells like Animate Objects, which specifically states that it creates creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 18 '17 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ And he's consistent (regarding flanking) sageadvice.eu/2016/05/19/… \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 18 '17 at 16:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be precise, it's a spell effect. If a spell creates creatures or objects, it says so. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Apr 18 '17 at 17:29

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