Bigamy Effectively Decriminalized in Utah Thanks to New Law

Supporters of the law have long argued that the fear of prosecution often kept possible abuse victims silent.


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Bigamy is now comparable to being burdened with a simple traffic ticket in Utah.

PerCNN, a law is now in effect in the state that effectively decriminalizes bigamy, which is defined as two people entering into a marriage while at least one of them remains legally married to another person. 

Previously, bigamy was categorized as a third-degree felony in the state and was punishable by up to five years behind bars, in addition to a $5,000 fine. The new legislation, signed into law back in March, took effect on Tuesday and notably makes official how the state's attorney general has handled the practice of polygamy in the past.

Unless coupled with another crime, the attorney general's office—despite state and federal laws of the time—had generally declined to prosecute offenses of the polygamy variety. With the new law, supporters point to how its implementation could make it easier for possible abuse victims to speak out, as they no longer have to worry about being prosecuted themselves.

"Like alcohol's prohibition a century ago, which gave rise to Al Capone and a dangerous black market, today's prohibition on polygamy has created a shadow society in which the vulnerable make easy prey," Republican state Sen. Deidre Henderson, the bill's lead sponsor, said in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune back in February. Abuse, Henderson added, is able to occur "with impunity" in these environments due to the fact that isolation can "breed secrecy."

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