In What States Is Adultery Against the Law?

in what states is adultery against the law

The question of adultery and its legal implications is a complex one in the United States. In terms of states where adultery is technically still against the law, these include Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Let’s take a deeper examination into the history of these laws, the states where they still exist, and what their enforcement (or lack thereof) means today.

Historical Context

Adultery laws have been in existence for centuries, with roots in various religious and cultural traditions. In the early days of the United States, the Puritan and Christian influences dictated societal norms and laws. Adultery was seen as a severe moral failing and a threat to the sanctity of marriage.

Current Status of Adultery Laws in the United States

While adultery remains on the books as a criminal act in a number of states, these laws are rarely enforced today. Strikingly, in many of these states, adultery is classified as a felony. However, prosecutions are almost non-existent. Below is an overview of the states where adultery is technically still against the law:

  • Arizona: According to Section 13-1408 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, adultery is a class 3 misdemeanor.
  • Florida: Florida Statute 798.01 categorizes adultery as a second-degree misdemeanor.
  • Kansas: Kansas law states under Article 35. – Crimes Against The Public Morals, 21-3520 Adultery can be charged as a class C misdemeanor.
  • Illinois: As per 720 ILCS 5/11-35 of Illinois law, adultery is considered a class A misdemeanor.
  • Massachusetts: According to Part IV, Title I, Chapter 272, Section 14 of Massachusetts law, a person guilty of adultery can face up to three years in prison.
  • Oklahoma: Title 21 § 871 of Oklahoma law defines adultery as a felony.
  • Idaho: Idaho Statute §18-6601 states that adultery is a felony with potential imprisonment for three years.
  • Michigan: According to Michigan Penal Code 750.30, adultery is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to four years.
  • Wisconsin: Wisconsin Statute Section 944.16 categorizes adultery as a class I felony.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota Statute 609.36 declares that adultery is a misdemeanor.

The legal consequences and enforceability of these laws vary by state. However, it’s important to note that even in states where adultery is technically illegal, these laws are rarely enforced. Some argue that such laws remain on the books primarily for symbolic reasons.

Legal Precedent and Future Implications

Despite their existence on paper, there are few recent instances where these laws have been enforced. In fact, in many instances, courts have found these laws to be unconstitutional.

The landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 had a significant impact on adultery laws. The Supreme Court ruled that state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults were unconstitutional. While the case didn’t directly involve adultery, it did set a precedent that has been widely interpreted to mean that states can’t regulate private sexual behavior between consenting adults, effectively rendering adultery laws unenforceable.

It’s also essential to consider the societal shift in attitudes towards adultery. While it is still considered morally wrong by many, the legal consequences are becoming less and less accepted. As the societal landscape continues to evolve, the future of these laws remains uncertain.

Q: In what states is adultery against the law?

A: Adultery is considered a crime in some states in the United States. However, laws regarding adultery vary across different states.

Q: Which states still consider adultery illegal?

A: Adultery is still a criminal offense in 16 states in the United States. These states include Idaho and Illinois.

Q: Is adultery illegal in all states?

A: No, adultery is not considered illegal in all states. Many states have decriminalized adultery and it is no longer considered a crime.

Q: What are the consequences of committing adultery in states where it is illegal?

A: In states where adultery is illegal, a person can potentially face criminal charges and may be subject to fines or even imprisonment.

Q: What is the difference between adultery and fornication?

A: Adultery is generally defined as the act of engaging in sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than their spouse. Fornication refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two unmarried individuals.

Q: Are there any exceptions to the law against adultery?

A: In some cases, certain states may have exceptions or exemptions to the law on adultery. These exceptions usually involve situations where the spouse has consented or condoned the extramarital relationship.

Q: Can a person be charged with adultery even if they are legally separated from their spouse?

A: In some states, a legal separation might not be enough to escape prosecution for adultery. It is important to consult the specific laws of the state in question to determine the consequences.

Q: Can a person go to jail for committing adultery?

A: Yes, in states where adultery is still a crime, a person can potentially go to jail if they are found guilty of committing adultery.

Q: Is adultery a valid ground for divorce?

A: Adultery can be considered as a valid ground for divorce in many states. It is advisable to consult with a family law attorney to understand the specific laws and procedures in your state.

Q: Is there a statute of limitations for prosecutions related to adultery?

A: The statute of limitations for prosecution for adultery varies from state to state. It is crucial to consult the criminal code of the specific state to understand the time limitations for such prosecutions.


  1. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1408 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Florida Statute 798.01 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Kansas Statute 21-3520 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. Illinois Law 720 ILCS 5/11-35 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  5. Massachusetts Law Part IV, Title I, Chapter 272, Section 14 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. Oklahoma Law Title 21 § 871 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  7. Idaho Statute §18-6601 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  8. Michigan Penal Code 750.30 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  9. Wisconsin Statute Section 944.16 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  10. Minnesota Statute 609.36 (n.d.). Retrieved from
  11. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). Retrieved from