California’s Bigamy Laws:- In a world where attitudes towards personal decisions, such as choosing who to marry, have evolved, California law maintains certain boundaries to protect the sanctity of marital relationships.
While individual choices are respected, the state strictly prohibits specific types of relationships. Engaging in these prohibited relationships can lead to criminal charges, underscoring the importance of legal awareness and representation.
This article delves into the intricacies of bigamy laws in California, emphasizing the need for understanding and navigating these legal nuances.
What Does Bigamy Mean?
The term “bigamy” commonly refers to marrying someone while already having a living spouse. However, California law, as outlined in the California Penal Code § 281, offers a more comprehensive definition.
According to this statute, a person with a living spouse who marries or enters into a registered domestic partnership with another person may face charges of bigamy. It’s crucial to note that California law does allow exceptions to this general prohibition under specific circumstances.
When Is Bigamy Illegal?
Bigamy is generally considered illegal unless falling under the exceptions outlined in the California Penal Code § 282. This statute permits individuals to remarry or enter a registered domestic partnership if their previous spouse or partner has been absent for five consecutive years, and their whereabouts are unknown.
However, exceptions aside, individuals cannot remarry or enter into a registered domestic partnership unless their previous marriage or partnership has been pronounced void, annulled, or dissolved by a court judgment.
This rule applies universally, even if the initial marriage took place in another state, with California recognizing and giving “full faith and credit” to out-of-state unions.
Bigamy vs. Polygamy
While bigamy involves having two spouses, polygamy is a broader term encompassing multiple spouses simultaneously. Both practices are illegal in California, a stance grounded in research indicating the emotional and psychological harm associated with polygamous relationships.
Studies suggest higher rates of depression, anxiety, hostility, and low self-esteem among women and children in polygamous unions compared to monogamous relationships, prompting the state’s interest in protecting residents from such negative impacts.
Penalties for Bigamy in California
Bigamy is classified as a “wobbler” offense in California, allowing the state to charge it either as a misdemeanor or felony based on the circumstances. As outlined in the California Penal Code § 283, the penalties for bigamy include a $10,000 fine, a maximum one-year jail sentence, or imprisonment in the state prison.
The determination of whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony is made by the judge or prosecutor, with guidelines in Penal Code 1170(h) providing sentencing options ranging from 16 months in county jail to 2 or 3 years in state prison.
Conclusion (California’s Bigamy Laws)
Understanding and navigating California’s bigamy laws are imperative to avoiding criminal charges and potential legal consequences. The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, recognizes the seriousness of such charges and offers award-winning criminal defense lawyers who provide both emotional support and high-level legal advocacy.
In a state where personal choices are respected but certain boundaries exist, staying informed about legal implications is essential for individuals involved in complex marital situations.