When You Commit a Felony by Getting Married: Florida’s Bigamy Loophole
It would be rare for a sane person to commit the same crime twice without realizing that they were committing a crime, but that is what Virginian resident, Frank E. Blake Jr., claims is the case. He is alleged to have committed bigamy as it is defined in the state of Virginia twice and has been charged with that “crime”, which is classified as a fourth degree felony in that state. There, the person is guilty of bigamy if he marries another in the State while married to someone else or if he marries another outside of the State and comes back to live with the other person in the State, while still married to the first. There is also a misdemeanor version of bigamy, giving the state the option of charging either.
Blake might have been better off in Florida, where there appears to be a small loophole for knowing bigamists which is a twist of the law that is unique to this state. More on this difference as applied in another strange case later!
Poor Blake was actually in jail serving time for a totally unrelated crime when he just happened to be visited by his loving wife. The only problem was that this was his second “loving wife” as he was still married to “wife number one”. What made police suspicious was when it was reported that yet another wife – “loving wife number three” turned up at exactly the same time to keep him company, which was probably nice for Frank Blake Jr., but meant that his marital arrangements came under the spotlight.
It was discovered that Blake had applied for divorce from wife number one, but married his second wife before the divorce was finalized. According to prosecutors, he was still married to his second wife when he then got married a third time.
Virginia law is a little different from Florida law on the issue of bigamy, or in Blake’s case, polygamy. True, Virginia law does not allow anyone to marry a second person unless the first marriage has been officially dissolved. The law is quite clear in Virginia in instances when the second marriage takes place within the state. However, if the person marries for the second time in another state, he or she can only be prosecuted for bigamy under Virginia law if the “married’ couple then “cohabits” or lives together back in Virginia.
Serial Bigamist Said He Didn’t Know He Was Doing Anything Wrong
There is no indication where Frank Blake married his three wives or where he cohabited with them in Virginia, but he seemed to be genuinely sorry when he appeared in court. After apologizing, he said that he didn’t realize that he was “committing a felony by getting married”. In both Virginia and Florida, bigamy is classified as a felony and in Florida, that means up to five years in state prison and a heavy fine.
In Blake’s case, although the prosecution was adamant that Blake led his wives up the garden path and knowingly committed bigamy, his defense attorney said that his second wife knew that the first divorce had not been finalized when she got married to him, no harm no foul. Although he may have been technically guilty had the State proven he got remarried in another state then cohabited with his second or third wife in the state while married to another, his criminal defense lawyer would have been able to still negotiate his way out of a Felony charge or a long prison term and maybe an entire conviction by pointing out there was no real victim.
In Florida, the law is a little different. If Blake, for instance, had married wife 1 in Florida, then married wife 2 in Georgia and wife 3 in Tennessee, he couldn’t be charged with bigamy at all in Florida. He would need to have gotten married twice in Florida to be found guilty of the crime of bigamy, regardless of whether he later cohabited with at least two of the three in Florida or even had kids with them while married to both. Of course, he might have still been charged with bigamy in Georgia or Tennessee.
This leads us to the case of Tait Bennett, a Florida resident, who was married to wife 1 in Florida and had two children with her, yet went to Las Vegas to marry another woman at the Stained Glass Chapel while married. He later had a child with the second woman, while still married and living with his first wife.
It seemed Bennett went for six years married to both wives before his first wife caught on and separated from him, despite his second wife having published many pictures of their wedding, their child and themselves also appearing to live as a happy family on Facebook! The secret wedding and second family had evaded wife 1 until her intuition kicked in and she had a funny feeling. She accused him of cheating on him, which he denied. She eventually separated and went to the Florida Department of Children and Families to seek child support for their two children. That’s when a record check found wife number 2, the second Mrs. Bennett.
Bennett had an excellent Florida criminal defense attorney in his corner. Despite having wed another woman while married and having children with each respectively during the concurrent marriages, the State attorney was unable to prove the case because the criminal lawyer found case law which interpreted the Florida statute to mean that, “at least two of the marriages must have occurred in Florida”. This forced the State to drop the case to wife one’s dismay. Although Bennett may be prosecuted in another State for bigamy or polygamy, he was correct that he could not be prosecuted in Florida because he did not commit a crime in this state!
That’s why you should never underestimate the value of hiring the best criminal defense attorney in Florida, whether you live in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach. Each state has its own complex statutes, rules and case law that interpret them within their respective jurisdiction. However, your Florida criminal defense attorney is in charge of reading it, putting it together and making sense of it all, when your future is on the line.
Keep your criminal defense lawyer’s number on speed dial. You never know when you’ll need one. Now, Bennett may not have been convicted in Florida, but he needs to watch out not to get one of his wives so mad that she takes out her own revenge on him, but that will be another story!
Increase your knowledge! If you want to know more about how to resolve the problems you face when charged with a criminal offense in Florida, then you can follow Miami Criminal Attorney Albert M. Quirantes on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
If you have any questions about this or any other criminal accusation, call Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage www.CriminalDefendant.com for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions to our office.