Polygamy refers to the act of being married to more than one person. Currently, every state has a law outlawing polygamy and the federal government also has several laws which criminalize the act of being married to more than one individual.
Polygamy and bigamy are illegal in the United States. The terms “polygamy” and “bigamy” essentially mean the same thing and they refer to someone who has more than one spouse and in some states, the law uses these terms interchangeably. However, there are some legal differences between these two terms:
The penalties for polygamy and bigamy can vary a great deal from state to state. It may be considered a criminal misdemeanor when no one’s life or safety is at risk and those practicing polygamy and bigamy may face a hefty fine, and/or imprisonment.
However, when spouses are forced to marry against their will and when they are not of legal age to marry, it may be a criminal felony which carries higher fines and longer jail sentences.
In Mississippi, a bigamy conviction can result in the revocation of that individual’s medical license and can make that individual ineligible for public office while in California, the second spouse can also be charged if they knew that their spouse was already married.
Under California law, bigamy is considered to be a “wobbler” which means that the prosecutor can decide to charge it as either a misdemeanor with a maximum county jail sentence of one year or a felony with a maximum prison sentence of three years.
In Utah, most famous for their issues with bigamy/polygamy, bigamy is considered a third degree felony. Which means that a person convicted of bigamy in Utah can face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
However, if the multiple marriage involved elements like domestic abuse, sexual abuse, fraud, or child abuse then it will elevate the crime to a second degree felony, which can result in up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Both polygamy and bigamy are illegal throughout the country and being married to more than one spouse involves serious legal consequences. If you have any questions regarding these issues, it is important to consult with a local criminal law attorney who can inform you about the relevant laws at the federal and state level.
Last Modified: 07-03-2018 11:01 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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