July 11, 2010


Michigan Adultery Law, excerpt from penal code, Act 328 of 1931
Chapter V

750.29 Adultery; definition. Sec. 29.

Definition - Adultery is the sexual intercourse of 2 persons, either of whom is married to a third person.

750.30 Adultery; punishment. Sec. 30.

Punishment - Any person who shall commit adultery shall be guilty of a felony; and when the crime is committed between a married woman and a man who is unmarried, the man shall be guilty of adultery, and liable to the same punishment.

750.31 Adultery; complaint and time of prosecution. Sec. 31.

Complainant and time of prosecution to be commenced - No prosecution for adultery, under the preceding section, shall be commenced, but on the complaint of the husband or wife; and no such prosecution shall be commenced after 1 year from the time of committing the offense.

750.32 Adultery; cohabitation of divorced parties. Sec. 32.

Cohabitation by divorced parties - If any persons after being divorced from the bonds of matrimony for any cause whatever, shall cohabit together, they shall be liable to all the penalties provided by law against adultery.

The above information is NOT legal advice, nor does it constitute a legal opinion.

Here's my opinion:

Premise: It is society, at any given time, that determines stigma, law and enforcement of the law.

The stigma of adultery in the early 21st century is a lot like the stigma of drunk driving before the inception of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). There is very little stigma attached to it.

Before MADD insisted on stronger penalties for drunk driving, circa 1970's, drunk drivers who got caught either got a slap on the wrist from the court, or the police did not bother to arrest you (verbal warning only). Before the late 1970's, it was common for police to pull you over if you showed signs of drunk driving; however, the consequences that followed were different from what happens today. Before MADD, a drunk driving stop by the police could've resulted in the police pouring out any unfinished adult beverage onto the pavement and sending you home. If a drunk driver did appear in court, the lawyer would ask for a jury trial because ten out of twelve jury members probably drink and drive, too. The legal defense back then was to elicit sympathy and empathy from the jury.

Fast forward to the early 21st century. No more legal breaks are given if you're busted for drinking and driving. Prosecution is pretty much guaranteed. This is because of the social stigma attached to that kind of behavior. It took MADD to enlighten society, strengthen enforcement efforts by the police and encourage the courts to prosecute. Unfortunately, despite the stigma and consequences, some people still drink and drive. The question can be asked, "Are fewer people choosing to drink and drive now than before"? I believe, yes.

The parallel between the drunk driving stigma and adultery stigma goes like this: I believe the adultery stigma in the early 21st century is similar to the drunk driving stigma before MADD started doing their thing a few decades ago.

Is the law against adultery not enforced because the act is so common? It is estimated that 60% of married men, and 40% of married women commit adultery. Would ten out of twelve jurors have sympathy and empathy for an adulterer? Even if adultery is common, does it make it any less serious?

Some people call adultery a sin. It is certainly a betrayal of trust between spouses. Psychologically, the underlying motivation to commit adultery is to seek a thrill. Seeking a thrill can get a person in trouble if the behavior is illegal or immoral; and that's why it's a thrill. Nobody intends to get caught. I submit there are legal and moral ways to seek a thrill.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the act of adultery to become more of a social stigma again. It took MADD and the courts to eventually stigmatize and prosecute drunk drivers. Besides the church, who will step-up on this one?

All human-beings figureatively live in glass houses. Throwing stones is not a good idea, lest we get them thrown back at us. Nobody is perfect. However, all the free will in the world to make decisions that will affect personal lives is meaningless unless it is underscored with the concept of responsibleness. The person who responsibly rejects the option to commit adultery might be metaphorically thinking, "Why would I want to go out and have hamburger when I can stay home and have steak?"

What am I thinking, feeling and doing today that shows others and myself that I am a responsible person?

Written by,
Mark Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor.

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