Florida’s Embarrassingly Outdated Cohabitation Law

Picture this: everything’s going great in your life until — bam! — you’re arrested for living with your girlfriend or boyfriend. No, it’s not a nightmare you’re having about how your parents will respond to your new relationship; it’s a practical reality under current Florida law.
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Our society truly embodies most the advancements of the 21st century and these progressions have in large part made their way into government practices. With state laws available online, digital fingerprinting in police stations, and court appearances being held by video, it’s clear that the State of Florida is moving forward.

However, as our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, there are a couple of glaringly archaic sections of the Florida State Statutes that keep the Sunshine State tethered to the past, and one of those is the cohabitation law, which makes it a crime for an unmarried man and woman to “lewdly and lasciviously” live together.

If the law (which basically bans sexually active (unmarried) people from living with one another) seems ancient, it might interest you to know that the law was first put on the books in 1868, right after the Civil War, and it’s remained there ever since. Here’s some perspective to help you understand the era in which the cohabitation law, S. 798.02 of the Florida State Statutes, was first enacted.

In 1868:
-Florida’s Constitutional Convention first convened in Tallahassee -Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general, was elected president -Houses were lit by candles, not by light bulbs -There was no such thing as a telephone -People moved about on the backs of horses, not in cars
Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know that the law was probably proposed and passed by people who wanted to encourage and preserve the institution of marriage; for that same reason, legislators to this day argue that it should remain Florida law. However, last month, a South Florida lawmaker, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, filed a bill which would repeal the long-standing cohabitation law, thereby making it actually legal for unmarried couples to live together.

As of now, while you’re probably not likely to get arrested for living with your significant other, you still run the risk of being a convict if you decide to live with your boyfriend/girlfriend before tying the knot. In fact, between 2007 and 2011, roughly 700 Floridians were charged with the crime of doing so. Making the choice to move in with someone you want to spend your life with is a big decision financially, emotionally and practically. You have a lot of things to worry about — breaking the law shouldn’t have to be one of them.

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward and/or Miami-Dade County, or if you have any questions about Florida’s cohabitation law or any other state statute, please contact our criminal defense lawyers by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.

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