Can You Go To Jail For Adultery?

Answer: Yes, you can go to jail in the states where adultery is still considered a criminal offense (not all states).

In the article that follows, we’ll discuss what constitutes the crime of adultery, and where an individual could face jail time for committing the crime.

Can You Go To Jail For Adultery? (Discussion)


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Adultery Laws Are Changing Rapidly

The content in this article was up to date at the time of writing.

The laws of adultery are being changed (or repealed) on a regular basis, so be careful when reading private or professional blogs (even like this one) when it comes to the topic of whether adultery is illegal in a particular state.

We make efforts to review content regularly to make sure it is up to date.

But definitely double check the specific statutes in your state to make sure your statutes have not changed before taking action.

In preparing this article, we have found many other resources online on this topic are now out of date.

Crimes that Result in Jail Time

There are two types of crimes that result in jail time, misdemeanor crimes and felony crimes.

While these two types of crimes might go by different names in different states, the two levels exist for the most part in all of the states.

The lower levels of seriousness might have a max sentence of 3 months to 12 months, while the upper levels of seriousness might have a max sentence of 12 months to 20 years.

Civil infractions (like traffic tickets) do not result in jail time.

The amount of jail time on the table will be determined by the seriousness of the crime, and the stated punishment set forth in the state statute.

The Crime of Adultery

While historically adultery was criminal across most of the United States, in recent years those laws are being repealed.

Michigan is one state where the crime of adultery is still on the books.

Michigan Penal Code 750.30 states:

Any person who shall commit adultery shall be guilty of a felony; and when the crime is committed between a married woman and a man who is unmarried, the man shall be guilty of adultery, and liable to the same punishment.

This statute applies the crime to both the married individual and the unmarried individual, if the married individual is female.

Wisconsin is another state where the crime of adultery is still on the books; it makes the following conduct a Class I Felony:

  • married person has intercourse with someone who is not the married person’s spouse; or
  • an unmarried person has intercourse with an person married to another.

While serious jail time is on the table with a few of the states, many of the states that have adultery laws impose an almost laughable punishment.

Maryland’s punishment for adultery is a $10 fine.

States That Still Have Anti-Adultery Laws

We checked the laws of the 50 states for anti-adultery laws, and here’s the states that we found did (and did not) have them.

StateLaw On The Books?Level
New Hampshireno
New Jerseyno
New Mexicono
New Yorkyes
North Carolinayesmisdmeanor
North Dakotayesmisdmeanor
Rhode Islandyesmisdemeanor
South Carolinayes
South Dakotano
West Virginiano

Will You Go To Jail For Adultery?

While adultery is still a crime in some states, it is rarely prosecuted.

This is one of the reasons why many states are repealing the statutes.

If an offender lived in a state where adultery is prosecuted aggressively, whether a person would serve jail time would depend on the circumstances of the crime, whether others suffered injury or harm as a result, and the criminal history of the offender.

If the offender has no criminal history and there was little harm or damage caused, the offender would have a better chance of avoiding jail.

If the offender has significant criminal history and caused significant harm or damage, jail is more likely.

Adultery Can Still Result In Serious Consequences

While adultery is not a crime in most states, committing the act can still be a problem.

Military and law enforcement codes usually prohibit adultery, and if a soldier or officer is found to have committed the act, the individual could face discipline.

In certain states, adultery can also impact the resulting divorce.

Getting Charged With Adultery?

Even though few states are seeking significant punishments for adultery, any conviction of a misdemeanor or felony is serious.

An experienced criminal defense attorney who practices in the court where the case will be heard can provide information and advice about what to do and how to move forward in the case.

Wrap Up

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Can You Go To Jail For Adultery