There are two categories of laws in the United States that are meant to punish wrongdoing or to compensate individuals who are victims of bad acts, called criminal law and civil law. Criminal laws deal with behavior that is considered to be an offense against the public, the state, or society as a whole, even if the victim is not an individual person.
Not only can an individual who is convicted of a crime be required to pay monetary fines, they may also lose their freedoms by being sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. It is important to note that, whether an individual is charged with a minor crime or with a serious crime, they still have the right to a trial as well as several other legal protections.
Civil laws are used to deal with behaviors that cause injuries or losses to individuals or other private parties through lawsuits. The repercussions that may arise for parties that are found liable for these types of acts are typically monetary, or involve money.
However, the remedies in civil cases may also include injunctions or restraining orders.
Who Brings the Case in Criminal Law?
In criminal law, the party who brings a case against a defendant is the state, also called the prosecution. These types of cases are titled, or styled, as “State of Texas v. Smith,” or “The People of the State of California v. Jones.”
Possible penalties a defendant, or individual charged with a crime, may face typically concentrate on punishing and rehabilitating the offender. This is different from civil cases, where an individual can bring a case against another individual or party to try and obtain reimbursement for their financial losses or other types of losses.
In a criminal case, the plaintiff, or the state, is represented by a prosecutor. The defendant is represented by a criminal defense attorney.
It is important to note that any individual who is accused of a crime has the right to legal representation in court. If the defendant is not able to afford a private attorney, the court will appoint them one.
Some criminal cases are tried in front of a jury while others are heard by the judge. Some cases are pleaded out, meaning that the defendant takes a plea deal and does not go through the trial process.
Every state varies regarding what criminal law statutes and codes they have. For example, in a state where the death penalty is permitted, there will be different sentencing guidelines for capital murder than in a state where the death penalty is prohibited.
Another example is the discrepancy in sentencing guidelines between states with varying marijuana laws.
What Is Adultery?
In general, adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married individual and another individual who is not their spouse. Different states have different laws governing adultery.
For example, in North Carolina adultery is defined as when two individuals “lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed, and cohabit together.” If an individual has any issues, questions, or concerns related to the adultery laws in their state, they can consult with an adultery attorney.
Is It a Crime to Commit Adultery?
As of the year 2022, adultery is categorized as a criminal offense in 16 states. It is important to note, however, that prosecution for this offense is rare.
This is because many adultery laws are being increasingly viewed as archaic. For example, in the State of Maryland, adultery is illegal and is punishable by a $10 fine with a misdemeanor tacked onto an individual’s record, yet it is very rarely prosecuted.
The states that have decriminalized adultery in recently include:
- The District of Columbia;
- New Hampshire;
- West Virginia; and
In What States Is Adultery a Crime?
As of 2002, adultery by some form of the definition is still a crime in 14 states, including:
- New York;
- North Carolina;
- South Carolina;
- Utah; and
It is important to note, however, that adultery is not defined the same in every state.
Are Adultery Statutes Constitutional?
Statutes governing adultery are constitutional. However, they are not commonly prosecuted by the states.
There are many laws that are simply a forgotten part of a state’s past that are typically removed once a case arises and the state government realizes the law should be removed. Adultery laws were originally enacted to encourage the idea that sexual relations should only occur in a marriage between a man and a woman who were committed only to each other.
When these laws were enacted, it was believed that it was the duty of the government to discourage or prevent intercourse outside of a marriage.
Who May Initiate a Prosecution for Adultery?
Because adultery is a crime in certain states, it is customary for the state prosecutor to initiate the prosecution. In certain states, the spouse of an adulterer may be allowed to initiate a prosecution.
In these situations, it is important to consult with a family lawyer before proceeding with this type of case.
Who Has the Burden of Proving Adultery?
Similar to all other types of criminal trials, the state has the burden of proof to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that adultery occurred. It is not enough to assume or suspect that an adulterous act occurred.
This makes it difficult to find hard evidence in situations where actions are the type that typically occur behind closed doors. In addition, the state is required to prove that at least one of the individuals engaged in adultery is married.
What If I’m a Victim of Adultery?
If an individual is the victim of a cheating spouse, they should consult with a family law lawyer as soon as possible. Their attorney can advise them regarding the best course of action in their state for pursuing their adultery claim.
If an individual decides it is in their best interest and the option is available, a lawyer can represent the individual if they choose to move forward with a fault divorce.
Why Should I Tell the Truth to My Lawyer?
It is important for an individual to always tell the truth to their lawyer, no matter the type of case they are involved in. In a case involving adultery, if the defendant lies or insists they are innocent but the evidence is against them, their attorney will not be able to arrive at a real plea bargain or ask the jury to convict them of a lesser offense.
If the defendant tells the truth, the facts may indicate that a lesser offense occurred or a plea bargain is appropriate. In addition, a defense lawyer can use the facts to argue that the minimum punishment should be imposed if the individual is convicted.
For example, in a case where a defendant was tricked into committing the crime.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
If you have been charged with adultery in a state where it is a criminal offense, it is essential to consult with a criminal lawyer. Your lawyer will advise you regarding the adultery laws in your state and the possible punishments you may face.
In addition, your lawyer will appear in court with you and make any arguments available in your defense. Having a conviction can affect much more than just your criminal record, for example, your ability to have custody of your children or get certain jobs, so it is essential to have legal representation.