Saturday, October 8, 2011

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 7: Summary of Delaware Laws

Author's Note:

For those interested, I will be in DC next weekend, as a presenter at the 8th Annual Public Anthropology Conference at American University in Washington D.C. (http://www.american.edu/cas/anthropology/public/). The panel I'm involved in is Non-Monogamy, Activism, and Social Change: Paradigms of Power & Praxis in Everyday Intimacy, scheduled for 1:00-2:15pm on Oct. 15 in the Mary Graydon Center.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and take a listen (-:

- Jason

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Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 7: Summary of Delaware Laws

Adultery:

Due to the absence of laws regarding adultery, except as a stated reason for divorce (Delaware State Legislature, 2011j), Delaware possesses no liability for swingers and open relationships, and reduced liability for polyamorists and polyfidelitists.

Bigamy:

By Delaware laws, a Bigamy offence is committed by the act of, or purportation of, marrying more than one person, or marrying someone who is married to more than one person (Delaware State Legislature, 2011e). Due to the purportation clause, polyamorists and polyfidelitists need to take care as how their family is publically portrayed, as the direct liability under bigamy applies to not only the individual possessing multiple marriages, but all individuals within the family unit.

Punishment for bigamy in Delaware falls within the guidelines for a class G felony (Delaware State Legislature, 2011e), which is punishable with up to 2 years in prison and/or an undefined amount of fine (Delaware State Legislature, 2011g). Delaware does have escalating punishments for felonies, which includes an undefined amount of additional sentencing for a 2nd and 3rd offence (Delaware State Legislature, 2011i), and a life sentence for a 4th offence (Delaware State Legislature, 2011h).

Delaware has the expected slew of criminal inchoate laws: conspiracy, solicitation and attempt (Delaware State Legislature, 2011a; Delaware State Legislature, 2011b; Delaware State Legislature, 2011c; Delaware State Legislature, 2011d), which extends the liabilities under bigamy to potentially include those who are connected and/or associated with the polyamorous/polyfidelitous family. Incohate punishments for bigamy are also treated as a class G felony (Delaware State Legislature, 2011a; Delaware State Legislature, 2011c; Delaware State Legislature, 2011d).

Delaware also possesses a vulnerable adult clause that applies to bigamy (Delaware State Legislature, 2011f), whereas if the state classifies an individual as a vulnerable adult through “reason of isolation, sickness, debilitation, mental illness or physical, mental or cognitive disability, is easily susceptible to abuse, neglect, mistreatment, intimidation, manipulation, coercion or exploitation,” (Delaware State Legislature, 2011f) in addition to anyone who has been state-appointed a guardian. If a bigamy charge occurs with a vulnerable adult involved, then the punishment goes up one class (Delaware State Legislature, 2011f), to a class F felony, with imprisonment for up to 3 years and an unspecified fine (Delaware State Legislature, 2011g).

Cross-Relation between the Laws:

The absence of a criminal adultery law effectively removes criminal liability for swingers and open relationships; however the purportation clause in Delaware’s bigamy laws creates a challenging liability for polyamorous and polyfidelitous families. Because the liability of a class G felony extends to all members of the family, and potentially to those involved with the family (either in a relationship or non-relationship way), polyamorists and polyfidelitists face rather harsh liabilities.

The addition of Delaware’s vulnerable adult clause creates an unusual added liability, where if any of the vulnerable adult criteria are identified within the family then the level of liability for the family, and those associated, increases.

Non-Monogamous Strategies:

Because of the bigamy purportation laws, non-monogamists need to take great care around issues of multi-partner cohabitation, and in handling the public portrayal of their relationship. Activities such as ceremonial marriage, or references such as husband and wife, could make everyone liable under bigamy laws and/or inchoate laws. Provided that proper public image handling is done, liability under Delaware law is nonexistent.

References

Delaware State Legislature. (2011a). Conspiracy in the second degree; class G felony. (Delaware Code 11-5-I-512). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011b). Conspiracy. (Delaware Code 11-5-I-521). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011c). Attempt to commit a crime. (Delaware Code 11-5-I-523). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011d). Conduct intended to aid another to commit a crime. (Delaware Code 11-5-I-533). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011e). Bigamy; class G felony. (Delaware Code 11-5-IV-1001). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011f). Crime against a vulnerable adult. (Delaware Code 11-5-VA-1105). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011g). Sentence for felonies. (Delaware Code 11-42-4205). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011h). Habitual criminals; life sentence. (Delaware Code 11-42-4214). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011i). Sentence of greater punishment because of previous conviction. (Delaware Code 11-42-4215). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

Delaware State Legislature. (2011j). Definitions. (Delaware Code 13-15-1503). Dover, DE: Delaware State Legislature.

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