In the United States, several states still have laws criminalizing adultery. In recent years, there has been a growing push to repeal these laws, as they are often difficult to enforce and can have severe consequences for those caught breaking them.
This article will provide an overview of adultery laws in the United States, including which states still have them on the books and the penalties for violating them.
What are Adultery Laws?
Generally, adultery is described as a voluntary sexual relationship between a married person and someone who is not their spouse.
Adultery is considered a violation of the commitment made in a marriage, as it involves breaking the agreement of fidelity and exclusivity between partners.
Adultery laws make it illegal for married individuals to engage in sexual activity with someone other than their spouse.
In Which States Is Adultery Illegal?
As of 2023, only a handful of states still have laws criminalizing adultery and fornication. These states include:
Adultery is illegal in Alabama. It is defined as sexual intercourse between a married person and someone, not their spouse. The statute that criminalizes adultery is Section 13A-13-2 of the Alabama Code. The punishment for committing adultery in Alabama is a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Adultery is illegal in Arizona under Section 13-1408 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The punishment for committing adultery in Arizona is a fine of up to $500.
Adultery is illegal in Florida under Section 798.01 of the Florida Statutes. The punishment for committing adultery in Florida is a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for up to 60 days.
Adultery is illegal in Idaho under Section 18-6605 of the Idaho Code. Adultery is classified as a misdemeanor offense, and the punishment for committing adultery in Idaho is a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail or both.
Adultery is illegal in Illinois under Section 11-35 of the Illinois Criminal Code. Adultery is considered a Class A misdemeanor offense in Illinois, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Adultery is illegal in Kansas under Section 21-5503 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated. Adultery is considered a Class C misdemeanor offense in Kansas, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for up to one month.
Adultery is illegal in Michigan under Section 750.29 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. Adultery is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Adultery is illegal in Minnesota under Section 609.36 of the Minnesota Statutes. Adultery is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 or up to one year in jail.
Adultery is illegal in Mississippi under Section 97-29-1 of the Mississippi Code. Adultery is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to six months in jail.
Adultery is illegal in New York under Section 255.17 of the New York Penal Law. Adultery is considered a class B misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Adultery is illegal in North Carolina under North Carolina General Statute 14-184. In North Carolina, adultery is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Adultery is illegal in Oklahoma under Oklahoma Statute Title 21, Section 871. In Oklahoma, adultery is considered a felony offense and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $500.
Adultery is illegal in Rhode Island under Section 11-6-2 of the Rhode Island General Laws. Adultery is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to one year in jail.
Adultery is illegal in South Carolina under Section 16-15-60 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. In South Carolina, adultery is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for up to one year.
Adultery is illegal in Virginia under Section 18.2-365 of the Virginia Code. Adultery is a Class 4 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250.
Adultery is illegal in Wisconsin under Section 944.16 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Adultery is a Class I felony punishable by up to 3 years and 6 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Can You Go to Jail for Committing Adultery?
Adultery is still considered a criminal offense in 16 states. Therefore, if you live in one of the states listed above, you can be imprisoned for adultery.
However, the enforcement of adultery laws is very uncommon, and most cases involving adultery are handled through divorce proceedings rather than criminal charges.
Are States Repealing Adultery Laws?
Many states are repealing their adultery laws because they are considered outdated and rarely enforced. Adultery laws, which criminalize extramarital sexual relationships, were once widely used to prosecute people for adultery.
However, in recent years, public attitudes toward extramarital affairs have changed, and many people believe it is not the government’s role to regulate sexual behavior between consenting adults.
Furthermore, adultery laws have been criticized for being sexist, as they often only punished women for engaging in extramarital affairs, while men faced no consequences. Additionally, adultery laws have sometimes been used to justify domestic violence against women.
As a result, many states have repealed their adultery laws in recent years, with some states arguing that the laws are an unnecessary government intrusion into personal relationships.
While many states have repealed their adultery laws, there are still several states where it remains a criminal offense. If you live in one of these states, it’s important to know the potential legal consequences of committing adultery.
It’s also worth noting that adultery laws are rarely enforced in practice and, in some cases, may be unconstitutional. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to be informed about the laws in your state.