Posts Tagged ‘adultery’

Jailing the Cheating Spouse AND Their Lover?

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Is it possible to have your cheating spouse and their paramour thrown in jail for fornicating with someone other than you?  It seems like an antiquated concept, right?  This relatively recent state law has some strong similarity to the punishments enacted on cheating women in days of old (like in the famous novel “The Scarlet Letter”).  So, let’s dive in and take a hard look at the criminal component of adultery by examining the language of this relatively new state statute (remember, the MS Code has been around for about a century now).

MS Code § 97-29-1 (2013)

“If any man and woman shall unlawfully cohabit, whether in adultery or fornication, they shall be fined in any sum not more than five hundred dollars each, and imprisoned in the county jail not more than six months; and it shall not be necessary, to constitute the offense, that the parties shall dwell together publicly as husband and wife, but it may be proved by circumstances which show habitual sexual intercourse.”

Many of you are probably thinking the same thing…here is my chance to punish that cheating low-life and that loser they are cheating with.  Is this statute ever even enforced?  It is very tempting to exercise this potential weapon which allows the possibility of prosecution for bad behavior..after all, no one likes a cheater.  Who would have thought to press charges for adultery after all…it is certainly a novel concept and one that is rarely, if ever utilized.

I spent a bit of time looking for relevant Mississippi cases where someone has been prosecuted for a violation of this code section (statute) and found exactly zero of them (sidenote:  the databases only reflect appeals so there may have been a small handful where the person chose not to take an appeal, but not likely).  Years ago there was in fact a statute that has subsequently been overturned that made extensive communication, even without fornication or other sexual acts with a married person a crime and was dubbed as “criminal conversation”.  That law has since been overturned by the Supreme Court of Mississippi.  Wow, how times have changed.  In the modern era of internet communication, we may all have been found guilty at some point in time.

While we have certainly taken a step back in terms of the magnitude of the codification of crimes as they relate to state statute, not seeing a single prosecution of crimes regarding adulterous or potentially adulterous behavior is somewhat surprising.  Even now, the standard is lighter in terms of what one must prove to show that a crime has been or is being committed…but the outcome is still that zero people have ever sat in a jail cell for adultery is the new reality.  Many will ask why this is the case, and for good reason. 

My final thoughts are pretty simple–and somewhat obvious to those who follow the criminal justice system.  First, there are simply not enough jails to house all of the cheaters out there.  Prosecutors have bigger fish to fry (rape, murder, assault)… everyday.  Although the legislature has made clear their position as to the seriousness of adulterous acts, enforcement is not quite so easy.  If we prosecute every cheater, as a society we will likely be too busy to pay attention to the violent crimes that run so rampant.  There is only so much space in the county lockup.

On a positive note for those of you dealing with a cheating spouse, you can take advantage of the public policy against your cheating partner by pointing to the chancery court that an actual crime is being committed.  It may not land the cheater, or their lover in jail, but at least it will magnify the gravity of your situation and potentially reap a better civil outcome.  After all, do not forget that public policy is on your side, at least this time.

Social Media as Evidence: Your Posts Don’t Lie

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Advances in technology have now made the world’s wisdom accessible to pretty much anyone with a smart phone or computer. Arguably even more astounding than the efficiency and productiveness flowing from this kind of access is the level of connection achievable between people from different parts of the country… or different countries… or different continents. From texting and direct messaging to posting statuses, pictures, videos, and locations, social media has revolutionized the way society communicates. Every day more and more people are putting their lives online for everyone they want to share information with and truthfully some they probably don’t.

It is likely that at some point in time you have been told to consider the cost of hitting “send” or “post” on social media before doing it. For example, should that picture from 3 a.m. last Saturday really be available to everyone? What about that status raising cane against your careless uncle Joe for backing into your car? The reason for this instruction is to reiterate the broad accessibility and eternal permanency of sharing information through the Internet. Unfortunately, though, many people still fail to see the laundry list of unintended consequences that may result from even just one poorly thought-out post.

Many employers have openly begun monitoring current employee’s social media accounts or combing through posts of a potential employee before an interview. But even if you don’t “clean” your accounts well enough, the worst that can happen is losing a job… right? No. Actually, your social media accounts could end up being used as evidence against you in court. A survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2010 found that 81% of divorce attorneys had seen an increase in evidence taken from wireless devices and 66% cited Facebook as the source of this evidence. Social media can be used as evidence to prove a variety of things like your opinions or thoughts, the time and place of your actions, communications or interactions with others, and even your income or purchases.

According to Washington family attorney McKinley Irvin, one reason social media accounts create relationship problems is because of the amount of time spent on them. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior showed that a 20% increase in Facebook enrollment equated to a 2.18% to 4.32% increase in divorce rates. If you’ve ever looked around a crowded restaurant at lunchtime, this statistic should not come as a shock. The number of people staring at their phones instead of conversing with their present company is staggering. If the quality of conversation in a social setting this low, it is easy to see how the same behavior at home could quickly destroy emotional connections and ultimately derail a marriage.

Attorney Irvin states that social media also creates an easy outlet for jealousy or distrust to flourish in a relationship. In fact, one in five people claim that they question their relationship after finding something suspicious on their partner’s social media account. Unfortunately, sometimes suspicions of infidelity are well warranted. Approximately one in ten people admit to hiding messages or social media posts from their partner and 8% of people even admit to having secret social media accounts. With all of this on the table, it is not surprising that one in three divorces are actually instigated because of online communications or affairs.

It is important to remember that even if your social media accounts are private, you can still legally be required to provide information from them during a lawsuit. Deleting anything will usually violate a court order and is unlikely to be effective anyway. As previously stated, information is never really gone once it is online. If you’re in the middle of a lawsuit, the best advice is to deactivate your social media accounts until the matter is settled.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has the expertise to handle many types of family law cases. If you or someone you know is looking for a divorce or child custody attorney, please don’t hesitate to call us. We would be happy to help you obtain justice as efficiently and inexpensively as possible regardless of whether you or your spouse has committed an online “faux-pas.”

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law