For some, having various marriages is part of their freedom of choice. For others, polygamy represents a danger to traditional families and opens up the possibilities for things like fraud. In Utah, bigamy is considered a crime – as we explain further in this article – which can carry severe consequences for those convicted.
If you or a loved one was charged with bigamy in Utah, you need immediate legal representation from a skilled Salt Lake City polygamy defense lawyer. Contact attorney Darwin Overson of Overson Law today for a free consultation on your case if you have been charged with the crime of bigamy or polygamy in Utah. Our number is (801) 758-2287.
Is Polygamy Considered a Crime in Utah?
Polygamy (bigamy) refers to multiple marriages, unlike monogamy, which uses the term “mono” (single). Utah Code § 76-7-101 states a person commits bigamy when “knowing the person has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry and cohabitates with the other person.”
Historically, polygamy has raised significant concerns between the government and groups in favor of this practice. Multiple marriages are common in many cultures and religious denominations, but they have also been used in cults and other questionable groups. The debate between bigamy supporters and the government has been extensive, and it keeps intensifying.
Polygamy can be traced back to the 1800s when the crucial decision to make it illegal was made. Specifically, the Edmund’s Act made bigamy a crime in the United States. However, in recent times, bigamy laws have seen some changes in the state of Utah. In 2013, a federal judge eliminated some parts of the polygamy laws prohibiting cohabitation of multiple-married couples. Although the cohabitation portion of the law changed, the ruling also reiterated the state of Utah should keep banning multiple marriage licenses.
According to state law, bigamy is still a crime and could be punished with prison time and fines. Under Utah Law § 76-7-101, polygamy is considered a third degree felony. Third degree felonies in Utah carry severe consequences. If you are convicted of such crime, you could face up to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
However, your charges could be elevated to a second degree felony, which could lead to harsher penalties. Second degree felonies come from additional circumstances alongside the original bigamy charges. For instance, if during your case it is discovered that you committed bigamy under pretenses, entered into a bigamous relationship to commit fraud, or abused a minor, you could face second degree felony charges. If found guilty, you could face up to 15 years in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
Can I Defend Myself Against Polygamy Charges in Utah?
While the law penalizes polygamy, defendants could still have the opportunity to defend themselves against their charges. Utah law provides possible defenses against bigamy charges, including the following:
The defendant believed the other person wasn’t legally married. Since both parties to a bigamous marriage can be charged, this can help you if you did not know your spouse was already married. Keep in mind that, as a defendant, you bear the burden of proving you did not know the other person was still legally married to take advantage of this defense. If you are the person who was already married, this defense cannot help you.
Fear of Harm
A woman could fight polygamy charges if she proves she got out of the relationship due to fear of bodily injury or coercion. However, proving the circumstances surrounding your situation requires presenting evidence to support your argument.
While these arguments do not represent an exhaustive list of possible defenses, they can illustrate some of the ways you could fight your polygamy charges.
Appealing a Polygamy Conviction in Utah
If you are convicted of polygamy, you could appeal your conviction from the trial court to the court of appeals. However, if you intend to appeal your case, your arguments must be based on errors of law. For instance, if the trial judge wrongly admitted evidence that would have changed your verdict, you could file an appeal for a retrial. Keep in mind, appealing your care doesn’t mean you get a chance for a new trial at the appeals court – you must prove there was an error before the appeals court can grant you a retrial. An experienced criminal appeals lawyer can help you through the entire process.
Polygamy Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations in Salt Lake City
Polygamy penalties can cause devastating consequences for convicted felons. Defending yourself against such charges requires experience, dedication, and knowledge. A Salt Lake City polygamy defense attorney can help you by making sure your rights as a defendant are upheld at all times. Don’t wait another minute if you or a family member was charged with polygamy in Utah. To schedule a free, confidential consultation on your case, call Overson Law today at (801) 758-2287.