Sunday, November 20, 2011

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 22: Summary of Massachusetts Laws

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 22: Summary of Massachusetts Laws

Adultery:

Massachusetts adultery law impacts both parties to adultery, with a punishment of up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $500 (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011a). In addition, Massachusetts has laws against fornication (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011d), and lewd & lascivious behavior (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011c), which extends liability to non-married individuals. Lewd & lascivious behavior is punishable at the same level as adultery (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011c), where fornication is punishable by up to three months imprisonment or a fine of up to $30 (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011d). Unfortunately Massachusetts doesn’t define fornication, creating a rather vague law (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011d). In addition lewd & lascivious behavior is only applicable if it is “open and gross,” (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011c) which is equally as vague as fornication.

For the purposes of this assessment, it is assumed that lewd and lascivious behavior is applicable in cases where the family is public about their non-monogamy, and fornication is applicable in cases where they are not, but found out to be non-monogamous. Though Massachusetts law on repeat offenders is applicable, it only mandates the maximum sentence for repeat offences, which does not extend the existing liability (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011i).

Inchoate offences are applicable to adultery as well, though Massachusetts has somewhat different inchoate laws than most stated. For Massachusetts the inchoate laws are: accessory before/after the fact (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011e; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011f), aiding (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011e), attempt (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011g) and conspiracy (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011h). Despite the differences, the level of situations covered by this range of inchoate offences is comparable to most other state’s inchoate laws. Punishment for inchoate offences is mostly at the same level as adultery, with aiding, accessory before/after and conspiracy being the same liability (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011e; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011f; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011h), and attempt being imprisonment of up to 1 year or a fine of up to $300 (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011g). Lewd & lascivious behavior and fornication hold the same inchoate liability (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011e; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011f; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011g; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011h).

Bigamy:

Massachusetts bigamy law is only applicable to the marryer (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011b). There is also a cohabitation reference in the law, but it’s worded to only be applicable with cohabitation with a “second husband or wife.” (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011b) For the purposes of this assessment it is assumed that a legal marriage must exist between cohabitants to be liable under bigamy in Massachusetts, effectively making it the same as regular bigamy laws.

Bigamy is punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years or a fine of up to $500 (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011b). Similarly to adultery, escalating punishment for repeat offences applies, but doesn’t actually increase the total liability (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011i). Inchoate offences also apply the same, with the exception of attempt. Aiding, accessory before/after and conspiracy still provide the same liability as bigamy (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011e; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011f; Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011h). Attempt, however is punishable with imprisonment of up to 2.5 year (Massachusetts State Legislature, 2011g).

Round-Up of Laws:

The adultery law creates liability for all forms of non-monogamy, with the lewd & lascivious behavior and fornication laws creating additional liability outside of marriage. The punishment is also unusually high for adultery, comparable to the bigamy law. The extensive inchoate offences also provide a full range of liability for anyone involved in the relationship.

Non-Monogamous Strategies:

Unfortunately there is no way to fully avoid liability. The best that can be had is by not possessing a legal marriage and to be discrete about the non-monogamous relationship, thereby being liable only under fornication laws.

References

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011a). Adultery. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.272.14). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011b). Polygamy. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.272.15). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011c). Open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.272.16). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011d). Fornication. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.272.18). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011e). Aiders; accessories before the fact; punishment. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.274.2). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011f). Accessories after the fact; punishment; relationship as defense; cross-examination; impeachment. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.274.4). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011g). Attempts to commit crimes; punishment. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.274.6). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011h). Conspiracy; penalties. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.I.274.7). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

Massachusetts State Legislature. (2011i). Punishment for habitual criminals. (Massachusetts General Laws IV.II.279.25). Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Legislature.

1 comment:

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