After a person marries in Texas, any subsequent marriage only becomes valid upon dissolution of the previous marriage, typically as the result of divorce or a spouse’s death. In addition to legal complications concerning the validity of a marriage, alleged offenders who marry people other than their legal spouses or people who knowingly marry people who are already married can be charged with bigamy.
Bigamy is a felony offense in Texas that carries lengthy prison terms and substantial fines. Alleged offenders in these cases often failed to finalize divorces to their original spouses.
Bigamy Defense Lawyer in Irving, Dallas, Carrolton, Richardson, TX
Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for a consultation about your alleged offense in Irving, Dallas, Carrolton, Richardson, and surrounding areas of Dallas County, Texas.
Richard McConathy is a criminal defense attorney in Dallas who aggressively defends clients accused of criminal family offenses in Carrolton, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Irving, Garland, Balch Springs, Richardson, and several surrounding areas in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They can provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (972) 233-5700 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Bigamy Charges in Dallas County
Texas Penal Code § 25.01 establishes that an alleged offender commits bigamy if such person is legally married and he or she:
- purports to marry or does marry a person other than his or her spouse in Texas, or any other state or a foreign country, under circumstances that would, but for the alleged offender’s prior marriage, constitute a marriage; or
- lives with a person other than his or her spouse in Texas under the appearance of being married.
An alleged offender also commits bigamy if he or she knows that a married person other than his or her spouse is married and he or she:
- purports to marry or does marry that person in Texas, or any other state or a foreign country, under circumstances that would, but for the other person’s prior marriage, constitute a marriage; or
- lives with that person in Texas under the appearance of being married.
The phrase “under the appearance of being married” is defined as “holding out that the parties are married with cohabitation and an intent to be married by either party.”
Bigamy Penalties in Texas
Bigamy is generally classified as a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The grading of the offense can be enhanced if, at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, the person whom the alleged offender marries or purports to marry or with whom the alleged offender lives under the appearance of being married is of a certain age.
When such other person is:
- 17 years of age, the offense is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000; or
- 16 years of age or younger, the offense is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life or 99 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Alleged offenders in these cases who are accused of marrying, purporting to marry, or living under the appearance of being married to another person after being legally married to another person can claim as a defense that they reasonably believed at the time of the commission of alleged offenses that they and the other parties were legally eligible to be married because the alleged offenders’ prior marriages were void or had been dissolved by death, divorce, or annulment. Such beliefs need to be substantiated by a certified copy of a death certificate or other signed document issued by a court.
Dallas Resources for Bigamy Offenses
Bigamist cleared by the statute of limitations — Bigamy is a married person’s act of marrying yet another person. In common law, a crime of bigamy occurs and is complete when the second marriage is accomplished[i]. For a defendant to be guilty of bigamy, sexual intercourse need not be proved. It is the conduct of the defendant in marrying the second time which constitutes the crime. The law forbids any abuse of the formal and solemn contract that came into existence with his/her first marriage.
Stevens v. State, 243 S.W.2d 162 (Tex. Crim. App. 1951) — In 1951, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas reviewed the case of a man convicted of bigamy and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. The man’s first marriage was a valid ceremonial marriage but his second was “made to depend entirely upon circumstances claimed to be sufficient to constitute a common-law marriage.” The man appealed the decision on the basis that a common-law marriage cannot be a bigamous marriage and the facts did not show a common-law marriage. The Court of Criminal Appeals, however, affirmed the judgment, writing:
We remain convinced that the crime of bigamy may be predicated upon a common-law marriage.
The facts show, among other things, that appellant held out and introduced to others as his wife the woman alleged to be his common-law wife; that she introduced appellant as her husband; that they lived together; and that the wife became pregnant and, after the institution of this prosecution, gave birth to a child.
We are constrained to agree with the state that the facts warranted the jury’s conclusion that a common-law marriage is shown.
Find A Dallas County Defense Attorney for Bigamy Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
If you have been charged with bigamy in North Texas, it will be in your best interest to make sure that you have legal counsel before making any kind of statement to authorities. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy is dedicated to protecting the rights of people all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for a consultation about your alleged offense in Irving, Dallas, Carrolton, Richardson, and surrounding areas of Dallas County, Texas. Call (972) 233-5700 or fill out an online contact form today to set up a free, confidential consultation that will allow our lawyers to review your case.