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Wisconsin Adultery Laws

Did you know?

Wisconsin considers adultery illegal. Enacted in 1849, Wisconsin law classifies adultery as a Class I Felony with a fine of up to $10,000 and 3.5 years in prison. Wisconsin Statute 944.16 defines adultery as having an extramarital affair involving sexual intercourse. With Wisconsin being a "no-fault" divorce state, this law is rarely enforced. Wisconsin judges and prosecutors are unlikely to allow criminal complaints on cheating as they are more likely to view it as a moral issue, not a legal issue.

Since this law was enacted in the 19th century, societal and legal attitudes have significantly shifted. Although an antiquated law, it has not been removed from Wisconsin statutes. In fact, the last time adultery was prosecuted was in 1990. In a family court hearing, a northern Wisconsin resident was accused of adultery and subsequently charged.

The state argued that the charge was representing the public's interest and had to be enforced when confronted with evidence of this violation. However, the case settled, and the Wisconsin resident charged with the crime agreed to 40 hours of community service and two months of parental counseling sessions.

This 1990 charge raised questions on whether this law should be declared unconstitutional, mainly affecting the right to privacy. Since 1990, there has not been another charge of adultery, but it does remain in the statutes.


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