Adultery: A Crime?

Believe, it or not, in Maryland, adultery is not only a grounds for divorce but it also a crime!  Under Maryland Law, adultery is a misdemeanor that if convicted is punishable by only a $10 fine.  Maryland defines adultery to mean a married person voluntarily engaging in sexual intercourse with a person that is not his or her spouse.  Adultery does not include oral sex or sodomy.  Therefore, the current definition is construed in such a way that adultery can only be committed with members of the opposite sex.  Recently, lawmakers have been working to try to abolish this archaic law but it remains on the books to this day.  According to records, at least three people were charged with adultery in Maryland in 2017.  Since the punishment  is nominal and the crime is rarely enforced, the main effect of adultery being labeled as a crime is that in divorce proceedings, the alleged “cheater” can generally plead the 5th when asked about infidelity.  When proving adultery as a ground for divorce, the accuser is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that their spouse had a relationship that culminated in sex.  The evidence cannot just be just the accuser’s word or even a spousal admission and must instead be corroborated by someone outside the marriage.  Further if the adultery is “condoned” meaning if the innocent party resumed a sexual relationship with their spouse or continues to cohabitate with their spouse after learning of the adulterous act, adultery cannot be used as a ground for divorce.  The District of Columbia repealed the criminal penalty of adultery in 2003.  

This information is intended for general purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice applicable to your case.  Consult an attorney with respect to your circumstances.