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Virginia lawmaker reject decriminalizing adultery

The Virginia General Assembly has decided that adultery should remain a crime in the Commonwealth. While the odds of prosecution are likely very low, it does happen occasionally, which should give cheaters something to think about.

It will likely surprise many of our readers to know that adultery is against the law in Virginia. In fact, it is a Class 4 misdemeanor. There is no possible jail time and a maximum fine of $250. Conviction is very rare, with just eight people convicted in the past decade, according to the Galax Gazette. In court, adultery can be impossible to prove unless the defendant admits it. Most defendants invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned under oath.

Still, some people believe that the law should not criminalize their private sex lives. State Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax County, a former member of the House of Delegates, has tried for years to repeal the anti-adultery law. Most recently, he sponsored a bill that would have made adultery a civil offense instead of a crime. The financial punishment would have been the same, but without giving people a criminal record for cheating on their spouses.

Though the bill drew the support of the Virginia Family Law Coalition and the conservative Family Foundation, it quickly died before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee in January.

Incidentally, cursing in public is also illegal in Virginia. A bill to decriminalize swearing also died in committee.

Criminal implications aside, adultery is a very serious matter. Cheating is the cause of many divorce filings, and may impact child custody determinations.

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