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BIGAMY Definition & Legal Meaning

Definition & Citations:

The criminal offense of willfully and knowingly contracting a second Q marriage (or going through the form of a second marriage) while the first marriage, to the knowledge of the offender, is still subsisting and undissolved. Com. v. McNerny, 10 Phila. (Pa.) 207; Gise v. Com., 81 Pa. r 430; Scoggins v. State, 32 Ark. 213; Cannon t v. U. S., 116 U. S. 55, 6 Sup. Ct 287, 29 L. Ed. 561. The state of a man who has two wives, or of a woman who has two husbands, living at the same time. C The offense of having a plurality of wives at the same time is commonly denominated “polygamy;” but the name “bigamy” has been more frequently given to it in legal proceedings. 1 Russ. Crimes, 185. p The use of the word “bigamy” to describe this U offense is well established by long usage, although often criticised as a corruption of the true meaning of the word. Polygamy is suggested as the correct tenn. instead of bigamy, to designate the offense of having a plurality of wives or husbands at the same time, and has M been adopted for that purpose in the Massa- II chusetts statutes. But as the substance of the offense is marrying a second time, while having a lawful husband or wife living, without regard to the number of marriages that may have taken place, bigamy seems not an inappropriate term. The objection to its use urged by Black- I stone (4 Bl. Comm. 163) seems to be founded I not so much upon considerations of the etymology of the word as upon the propriety of distinguishing the ecclesiastical offense termed “bigamy” in the canon law, and which is defined below. from the offense known as “bigamy” in the modern criminal law. The same distinction is t carefully made by Lord Coke. (4 Inst. S8.) But, I the ecclesiastical offense being now obsolete, this reason for substituting polygamy to denote the crime here defined ceases to have weight. Abbott. In the canon law, the term denoted the .. offense committed by an ecclesiastic who | married two wives successively. It might be committed either by marrying a second wife after the death of a first or by marrying a widow.


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