Legislators Reject Bill to Decriminalize Adultery

Virginia legislator says it should be just a civil offense
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2016 4:00 PM CST
Legislators Reject Bill to Decriminalize Adultery
In this Monday April 30, 2007 file photo, the moon rises over the state Capitol in Richmond, Va.    (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

A legislative panel has rejected a bill to decriminalize adultery in Virginia, one of about a dozen states where infidelity is a crime. Virginia law classifies marital infidelity as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250. Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax County proposed keeping the $250 penalty but making adultery a civil offense. Surovell says that in the last decade, there have been just eight successful prosecutions for adultery in Virginia. He says only about a dozen states treat it as a crime. Surovell wanted to make it a civil offense because, he tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch, defendants facing the criminal charge can invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.

"Basically, we're trying to sort of bring Virginia law up to speed with, I think, legal reality, and also to allow people to be held accountable, mainly in divorce cases," Surovell says. But Republican Sen. Ryan McDougle of Hanover County says that while there may not be many convictions, the charge can be a useful tool in prosecuting other offenses. "There are some cases where we could not get convictions without this particular statute," he explains. Media outlets report that the Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed the measure on a voice vote Monday. (More Virginia stories.)

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