Marital Violations in Utah

Utah has some well-known laws regarding marital violations, yet there are others that may surprise even long-time residents.

Offenses against the Family

Photo by: Abhishek Jacob

Utah is known to be a family-friendly state and as such has certain laws in place to protect families by criminalizing “Offenses against the Family” as described in Chapter 7 of the Utah Criminal Code. This chapter includes laws pertaining to abortion, failure to support a family, sale of children, as well as marital violations.

Marital violations

Many of the listed marital violations found in Utah Criminal Code are understandably punishable by law, however there are some that are notably dated. Bigamy, child bigamy, and incest are all felony marital violations that are noted by the general public as being punishable criminal offenses. The other two sections listed as marital violations pertain to adultery and fornication-two areas that may not be viewed by everyone as being criminal in nature.

Adultery

According to Utah Code 76-7-103 “A married person commits adultery when he voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person other than his spouse.” While most agree with this definition of adultery, many are shocked to hear that it is against the law in Utah. That section regarding marital violations goes on to note that “Adultery is a class B misdemeanor” which Utah Courts state is punishable with a county jail term of “up to six months in jail [and] up to $1,000 fine or compensatory service.

Fornication

Photo by: Pete Birkinshaw

The following section goes one step further by not only punishing unfaithful spouses, but consenting adults who consummate their relationship prior to marriage. 76-7-104 states: “Any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication. Fornication is a class B misdemeanor.” This law which was enacted in the 1973 General Session was likely approved by a generation where such actions were abhorrable.

Socially unacceptable, not criminal

Just because something seems wrong, does not mean it is necessarily criminal. While most Utah residents frown upon cheating spouses, not all agree that couples should save themselves for marriage. Some issues are better left for couples to decide for themselves.

Strange Utah Laws

Many of the so-called strange Utah laws touted about online turned out to be either outdated or non-existent, however the following were found to be valid laws.

Whale hunting

strange utah laws

Photo by: Issac Kohane

It is illegal to hunt whales in Utah. This is one of the strange Utah laws that is true in a sense, but only on a national level. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) text of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) section 102 (2)(f) “It is unlawful for any person or vessel or other conveyance to take any species of whale incident to commercial whaling in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”. Luckily no body of water in Utah contains any species of whale so breaking this law isn’t likely to happen.

Selling alcohol in an emergency

It is illegal to sell alcohol in an emergency. If a state of emergency is ever declared in Utah, you may want to think twice about running to the store for your favorite brand of alcohol. Legally, alcohol venders may not be able to sell you any but it all depends on whether or not the governor says it’s okay. Utah Code 32B-4-407 states “During a period of emergency proclaimed by the governor to exist in an area of the state, it is unlawful for a person to sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area if the director publicly announces and directs that in that area a person may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area during the period of emergency.”

Marrying family members

Photo by: Evan Forester

Photo by: Evan Forester

It is illegal to marry a close family member or have sexual relations with them. As disturbing as this is, the state of Utah felt the need to cover topics related to marriage or incest multiple times throughout the Utah Code. Section 30-1-1 states “The following marriages are incestuous and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate:
(a) marriages between parents and children;
(b) marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree;
(c) marriages between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood;
(d) marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews;
(e) marriages between first cousins, [unless] both parties are 65 years of age or older; or if both parties are 55 years of age or older [and] either party is unable to reproduce.”
While Utah Code 30-1-1 fails to mention criminal charges for incestuous marriages, section 76-7-102 adds that incest (regardless of marriage) is in fact a third degree felony.

Large containers of beer prohibited

Another weird law pertaining to alcohol: only retailers are allowed to possess containers of beer larger than two liters. Long -time residents of Utah may be familiar with this law, but those new to the area may wonder why police always break up parties where kegs of beer are located. Utah Code 32B-4-406 (1) (b) states “a person may not purchase or possess beer in a container that exceeds two liters.” The only exception for buying or possessing large containers of beer is when it is between licensed alcohol retailers.

Ultimate fighting

Photo by: Eric Molina

Photo by: Eric Molina

No biting during ultimate fighting matches. Surprisingly, Utah actually allows ultimate fighting matches to begin with but no, biting is not allowed. Neither is “direct, intentional, and forceful strikes to the eyes, groin area, adam’s apple area of the neck, and temple area of the head” according to Utah Code 76-9-705. Additionally “using anything that is not part of the human body, except for boxing gloves, to intentionally inflict serious bodily injury upon an opponent through direct contact or the expulsion of a projectile” and “striking a person who demonstrates an inability to protect himself from the advances of an opponent” are prohibited.

Consult attorney about strange Utah laws

If you are ever unsure about strange Utah laws it is best to consult with an attorney to ensure there any action you take will not have a threat of criminal charges. If you have already been charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.