A person commits the offense of bigamy when he or she is legally married and when he or she marries or purports to marry another person, who is not his or her spouse. A person also commits the offense of bigamy when he or she is not legally married and when he or she marries or purports to marry another person who is legally married. In states where common law marriage is recognized, a person commits the offense of bigamy if he or she is legally married and cohabits with another person under the appearance of being married, which means that the parties hold themselves out as being married.
In order to convict a defendant of bigamy, the prosecution must prove the existence of a prior marriage and the fact that a prior spouse was alive at the time of the bigamous marriage. The prosecution must also prove that the prior marriage was not annulled or dissolved as a result of a divorce. The prior marriage may be proved by a valid marriage license or by the testimony of the prior spouse.
A defendant who is charged with the offense of bigamy may defend the offense on the grounds that he or she reasonably believed that his or her prior marriage was void or was dissolved by death, divorce, or annulment. However, the defendant must prove that he or she made a good faith effort to determine whether the prior marriage was void or was dissolved by death, divorce, or annulment.
Prosecution of the offense of bigamy may be brought where the bigamous marriage took place, where the parties to the bigamous marriage are living, or where any party to the bigamous marriage, who is not charged with the offense, resides.
The offense of bigamy is normally punished as a misdemeanor.