Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oops, Britney Did It Again! This Time It’s Bigamy. Or is it?

Yes. She did. Britney Spears and her paparazzo boyfriend, Adnan Ghalib, eloped to Rosarita Beach, Mexico on January 9, 2008. Since 2004, Britney has had two failed marriages, gone to the psych ward twice, and been to rehab three times. As if Britney does not have enough problems in her life, she’s added the crime of bigamy to the long list. Or has she?

The key question is did Britney “willfully” marry Adnan “knowing” that he was already married?” Under California law, to find Britney guilty of bigamy, the prosecutor would have to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that Britney knew of the prior marriage but married Adnan anyway. Criminal defense lawyers look to the facts. According to news sources, when Britney was released from a psychiatric hospital the first time, Adnan convinced her into going to Mexico to get married by telling her that it was the only way to keep her safe from the world. Such facts could give rise to a lack of mental state defense.

As in Florida, there is a “mental state” element under the California bigamy law that Britney's criminal defense lawyers can argue is lacking. Such would not be the case in a state that recognized bigamy as a strict liability offense. So, if Britney were found guilty of the crime of bigamy, she could be punished by a fine not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison.

This blog would not be complete if I did not touch on the laws in Texas. Under the bigamy laws of Texas, a man or woman commits a bigamy offense if he or she is legally married and his or her “spouse is married and he or she purports to marry or does marry that person in this state, or any other state or foreign country, under circumstances that would, but for the person's prior marriage, constitute a marriage.” Convoluted? Perhaps. That’s Texas law sometimes. But one thing is for certain. Texas law differs from many other state laws because there is no mental state requirement to prove the criminal offense of bigamy. Bigamy is a strict liability crime in Texas.

Jail bird Britney? Well, I hope not. Prison is certainly the one thing Britney wants to leave off her list of problems in life.

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