Bigamy in Utah – Equal Rights for all Marriages

Following the legalization of same-sex marriages, those wishing to practice bigamy in Utah may be wondering if and when there will be equal rights for all marriages.

Marriage equality

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

On June 26th, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were to be legal in all fifty states. This ruling from the Supreme Court was celebrated as a huge victory by supporters of the LGBT community. Those in favor of gay marriage argued that no one should be discriminated against when choosing a marital partner; that everyone ought to have the right to wed whom they love. Any other decision by the courts would be unconstitutional.

The new accepted marriage

Now that the constricting barrier of protecting the sanctity of “traditional marriage” has finally been lifted nationwide, other couples choosing non-traditional relationships, such as marrying multiple spouses, wish to have similar rights. Unfortunately for them, the practice of bigamy is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison; Prison time for trying to legally marry people they love. Traditional marriage may not exist in the way America remember as one man and one woman; perhaps it has been redefined to specify monogamous marriages only. It appears the lines may have been adjusted to fit what is publicly accepted.


Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Bigamy is often referred to a second marriage where the spouses are unaware of another husband or wife while polygamy is thought to be a multi-marriage where everyone knows each other. What is known as polygamy is often ordained by a religious leader but without a legally binding contract. Technically, bigamy is the official definition for all types of marriages that consist of more than two partners. This is discussed in Utah Code 76-7-101 which states: A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”


Although bigamy is still against the law, there have been small strides that may eventually open doors for spouses practicing bigamy. In December 2013, a federal judge deemed that a portion of Utah Code 76-7-101 that covers bigamy was unconstitutional. The part in question involved bigamy without marriage which was known legally as a married person who “cohabits with another person”. This federal ruling striking down that portion of 76-7-101 came after Kody Brown and his four wives came under attack for their polygamous relationship. The Browns, a polygamous family in Utah, were made famous for their involvement in the hit television series Sister Wives. Although Brown was only legally married to his first wife, the fact that he lived with four wives and had children with all of them deemed them married through cohabitation or common-law. Facing a third degree felony for each extra wife he had, Brown and his wives went to federal court where their polygamous relationship was deemed legal. Eventually Brown may be able to wed his other wives legally.

Child bigamy

Photo by: dani0010

Photo by: dani0010

As the state of Utah shows an imaginable future of decriminizing bigamy, there is one type that has little chance of ever becoming legal. Child bigamy is defined in Utah Code 76-7-101.5 as “An actor 18 years of age or older ( . . . ) knowing he or she has a wife or husband, or knowing that a person under 18 years of age has a wife or husband, the actor carries out the following with the person who is under 18 years of age:

(a) purports to marry the person who is under 18 years of age; or
(b) cohabits with the person who is under 18 years of age.”

Bigamy with minors, which is considered a type child abuse to many, will likely remain against the law indefinitely as a second degree felony.

Bigamy in the future

As many citizens take a more liberal approach to traditional marital relationships, adults wishing to marry multiple other adults may soon find themselves celebrating their own legal victory. Until then, bigamy is still punishable under Utah state law. Anyone facing charges for bigamy or for polygamy involving cohabitants only are encouraged to speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

All citizens of the United States have the right to feel secure in knowing that their home and personal belongings are not subject to unreasonable searches and seizures.

Protection for the people

Photo by: Chuck Coker

Photo by: Chuck Coker

The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. “ The Fourth Amendment is there to protect the people from searches that are unjust and unreasonable.

When is a search unreasonable?

Unless a warrant is provided, a search is considered unreasonable if it violates a person’s privacy. Things considered private can include a residence, vehicle, private property, or clothing. There are often times when obtaining search warrants are not needed in order to conduct a search. These loopholes regularly exercised by law enforcement can include:

• Verbal permission is given to do a search by the person who the property or possessions

• Illegal or dangerous items can be seen easily without having to search the property

• There is reason to believe that an immediate threat to another’s well-being is at stake

• Enough probable cause is noted to conduct a search

Common incidents of illegal searches

Whether it’s working on a hunch or trying to meeting quota, there are officers out there who are merely hoping to find a reason to make an arrest. Unfortunately, many citizens see police as someone of superior authority who outranks the common civilian and they tend to not speak up when their belongings are gone through without a valid reason. A few incidents where these unreasonable searches and seizures are more likely to take place are:

• Searching the trunks and vehicles during routine traffic stops

• Going outside the permitted areas of a search warrant

• Entering an unlocked home, garage or vehicle

• Pat downs of random law abiding pedestrians

Questionable Violation of Fourth Amendment rights

Occasionally citizens may believe that they have been a victim of unreasonable searches and seizures, when the judge may not agree with their assessment. A hit in run case involving a young woman named Chelse Marie Brierley of Layton Utah was almost dismissed when it appeared that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. Following the hit and run, police were able to track Brierley down to her residence and while at her home they entered uninvited through the front door that was left open by the Brierley’s housekeeper. Although they were not invited to enter the residence, during the time that they were in the house nothing was searched. However because these officers entered the home unlawfully, Brierley assumed she was a victim of unreasonable searches and seizures. It was determined last week that none of the evidence in her case was obtained while officers were in her home so the charges against her for the hit and run were not dismissed.

Charges and evidence acquired during unreasonable searches and seizures

Photo by: Copper Kettle

Photo by: Copper Kettle

Not all cases fighting unreasonable searches and seizures turn out to be naught. If there is any indication that the charged person is in fact a victim of a Fourth Amendment violation, it is imperative to speak to counsel before getting any admittance of guilt on record. It is possible that the charges could be dropped entirely. If a judge rules that the charged person was a victim of unreasonable searches and seizures, then all evidence for the case that was derived because of that illegal search is invalid and will not be submitted in court. Not only is the evidence directly obtained during the search no longer submissible, but any information or items obtained because of the knowledge obtained during the illegal search and seizure is also unusable to the prosecution. In other words, if the source of the info is tainted, then so is everything that came because of it. If you are concerned that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately before moving forward with your case.

Restoring Civil Rights for Convicted Felons

Convicted felons lose more than their freedom; they lose many civil rights as well. Serving time in prison for a felony is not the only punishment for those convicted. Rights that are granted to each U.S. citizen may be withheld from convicted felons while they serve prison time or for the rest of their lives.

Photo by: Kelley Minars

Photo by: Kelley Minars

Right to Vote

The right to vote is something that every U.S. citizen is granted as soon as they turn 18 years of age. Being convicted of a felony will suspend this right temporarily in most states. According the Title 20A Chapter 2 Section 101.5 of the Utah State Code, “Each convicted felon’s right to register to vote and to vote in an election is restored when:
(a) the felon is sentenced to probation;
(b) the felon is granted parole; or
(c) the felon has successfully completed the term of incarceration to which the felon was sentenced. “

Hence, as long as you’ve served your time or been released, your right to vote will be restored.

Right to Hold Office

Watch yourself Mr. Mayor, cross your “t’s” and dot your “i’s” city council members. Getting a felony charge loses the convicted person’s right to hold office. In order for someone to hold office again, they not only have to serve the time given them for their crimes, they either have to have their record expunged or wait a decade to run for office again. This doesn’t apply in every case however. According to Utah State Code, “ an individual who has been convicted of a grievous sexual offence,[…] against a child, may not hold the office of State Board of Education member or local school board member.”

Right to Serve on a Jury

While many U.S. citizens detest getting a jury summons in the mail, a convicted felon that has been at the mercy of a jury before may wish to have that right later in life. Maybe they were displeased with the way the jury handled the case and evidence and wish to be a better juror for someone else if given the chance. Perhaps they were satisfied with the jury system and wish to be a part of it themselves someday. Unfortunately, the majority of states exclude convicted felons for life from participating in a jury. Fortunately, in the state of Utah, convicted felons are restored their right to serve on a jury if they’ve had their record expunged.

Photo by: Richard Loyal French

Photo by: Richard Loyal French

Right to Bear Arms

In 18 U.S. Code § 922 it states “It shall be unlawful for any person […] who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; […] to possess […] any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition […]
If a convicted felon disobeys this law by being in possession of a firearm is looking at an additional 10 years behind bars. Although this law sounds absolute, there are ways for convicts to restore their gun rights. The only way for a convicted felon to go about this is to have their record expunged. Unfortunately, as gun laws tighten, restoring gun rights to convicted felons tighten as well. For instance, there are times when records can be expunged for those wishing to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury, but there is will be an exception with restoring the right to bear arms. This is most common with violent crimes. Capital crimes, sex crimes against children, first and second degree forcible felonies, as well as repeat felons or those who have already had their records expunged before.

Seek Legal Counsel

If you or are a convicted felon who has finished serving the required time for your crimes and has waited to allotted amount of time for “cleansing”, speak with an attorney about restoring your civil rights and returning to society with the equal rights given to all U.S. citizens.