Though bigamy charges are not often issued in Florida, such cases do arise and may carry serious consequences for offenders. Under Florida law, bigamy occurs when an individual with a current legal spouse knowingly and intentionally gets married to a second spouse. While many people find the idea of bigamy to be morally reprehensible, they may not realize the act may also result in criminal convictions.
The Florida bigamy statute1 does set out certain exceptions, specifically that you may not be convicted of bigamy if any of the following apply:
- You had reasonable belief that your first spouse was deceased.
- Your first spouse voluntarily disappeared and remained continuously absent for three years, and when you remarried you had no specific knowledge that your first spouse was still alive.
- Your first marriage was legally dissolved.
- You believed you were divorced, however the judgment for divorce issued by the court was somehow invalid, meaning you are still technically married.
- You otherwise had reason to believe that you were able to legally remarry.
The first two above situations were more applicable prior to the rise of the Internet, when it was less likely that you could determine whether a spouse who disappeared was still alive or not. In recent years, such defenses are less relevant.
However, the act of bigamy must be knowing and intentional, so an experienced criminal defense attorney can always present evidence to show that you truly believed you were divorced prior to your second marriage in order to fight bigamy charges.
Penalties For Bigamy Convictions
Though bigamy may not seem like a serious criminal offense, convicted bigamists in Florida face serious consequences. First, bigamy can result in a felony conviction on your criminal record. This conviction will show up in background checks and may have a substantial effect on your professional opportunities and personal reputation. Additionally, a third-degree felony conviction may mean spending up to five years in state prison and/or paying a fine up to $5,000.
Because of the serious consequences of bigamy convictions, anyone suspected of bigamy in Florida should seek out the assistance of an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact attorney Stephen G. Cobb at the Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm at (850) 669-5882 to discuss your violent crime case today.
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