Bigamy is the crime of being married to multiple people simultaneously. It is also bigamy to knowingly marry someone known to be married. Marriage to more than one person at any given time is illegal in Florida and every other state in the United States. It is a crime in the United States because it is frowned upon from a public policy standpoint. In the United States, marriage has been considered a relationship between two individuals, and only those individuals receive the benefits of marriage. A marriage formed through bigamy is not considered a real marriage. When discovered, it is determined to be null and void.
Although they are commonly associated, bigamy and polygamy are not the same, even though they involve some of the same actions. Polygamy is heavily associated with specific cultural norms, with one man marrying multiple wives. In these cultures, polygamous marriages are generally well-known and even expected. Usually, one of two situations has occurred. First, the bigamous spouse has either intentionally kept the second marriage secret from the first marriage; or second, the bigamous spouse does not know that two valid marriages are occurring simultaneously. If this is the case, the bigamous spouse might believe the first marriage was invalid and not a real marriage or that the marriage was legally terminated through a divorce or annulment.
Florida Bigamy Attorney
If you have been charged with bigamy, contact Brooksville criminal defense lawyer Ashley Aulls at The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A.. Bigamy is classified as a third-degree felony and these accusations are serious in the State of Florida. We advise you to hire a knowledgeable defense attorney who can obtain a reduction or dismissal of charges.
If you have been arrested for bigamy in Hernando, Citrus, or Sumter County or the surrounding areas, including Brooksville, Weeki Wachee, High Point, Hernando Beach, Hill ‘n Dale, Inverness Highlands, Sugarmill Woods, Lecanto, Wildwood, or Lake Panasoffkee, preserve your freedom by calling The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. today at (352) 593-4115. Mr. Aulls is prepared to take your call.
In the state of Florida, bigamy is a third-degree felony. If convicted of bigamy, penalties can include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison. If the other spouse did not know about the bigamous spouse’s marital state, the other spouse has not committed a crime. The above penalties can also apply to individuals who knowingly marry a person known to be married.
In unfortunate circumstances, an unknowing spouse who later learns of a second family might wish to divorce the spouse charged with bigamy. Because bigamous marriages are not real, the spouses cannot obtain typical divorces. Because of this, spouses are not subject to the same property distribution or alimony laws, and they may struggle with custody issues if there are children. For long-term bigamous marriages, this can be devastating. Although there is no specific annulment statute in Florida, each circuit court can provide petitions for annulments.
Like most crimes, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed bigamy. Criminal defense attorneys can find flaws in the prosecution’s case and present their own evidence to contradict it or support a defense to bigamy. The crime of bigamy is relatively simple to prove and only requires proof that:
- The person accused was married
- While married, the person accused married another person
The proof is not usually difficult. Marriage certificates and lack of a divorce decree from the first marriage are common ways to prove bigamy.
If charged with bigamy as someone who married a person who was already married, the prosecution only needs to prove that:
- The knowledge that the other person was married
- While the other person was married, the person accused married that person
In these cases, the marriage itself is not typically difficult to prove. Depending on the case, knowledge of the other spouse’s first marriage can be difficult. Working with a qualified defense attorney is the surest way to provide the best defense to a bigamy charge.
Many bigamy charges can be defended. Under Florida law, an individual accused of bigamy cannot be found guilty if:
- The person accused has a reasonable belief that the former spouse is dead
- The former spouse voluntarily deserted the accused and remained absent for at least three continuous years, and the accused does not know whether the former spouse is still living
- The accused’s prior marriage was dissolved
- A domestic or foreign court entered an invalid judgment terminating or annulling the prior marriage, and the person accused did not know the judgment was invalid
- The person accused reasonably believes they are legally eligible to remarry
For most of the above defenses, the accused’s history and reasonable beliefs about their former spouse’s whereabouts will be heavily evaluated. A qualified defense attorney can provide the resources needed to build the best defense, given the facts of each case. In some situations, it may be better to seek legal advice before getting married a second time to prevent future charges. There can be situations where the law may not be considered bigamous, such as when a spouse is not heard from for at least five years.
Despite the above, some people accused have reasons for marrying that still cannot be used as defenses. It is not a defense for the accused to say that the law was confusing or that they thought multiple marriages were legal. It is also not a defense to say that a divorce from the first marriage was pending when the second marriage happened. In other words, it is still bigamy even if the first marriage results in a divorce decree when the second marriage has already started.
Defenses to Bigamy Charges – Florida Statute Section 826.02 provides a list of circumstances that can overcome a bigamy charge.
Florida Statutes: Incest – Access the official website for the Florida Statutes to view 826.04 which constitutes the crime of incest. You can view penalties for the offense.
Brooksville Bigamy Lawyer | Hernando County, FL
If you are facing accusations for bigamy, contact The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A.. Hernando County defense lawyer Ashley Aulls has spent over 20 years defending clients facing criminal charges. He will treat you with dignity and respect while fighting to protect your rights and your future.
To find out what The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. can do for your bigamy charges in Hernando County, Pasco County, Citrus County, or Sumter County, call (352) 593-4115 to secure a free consultation.