Are Incestuous Relationships Criminal?

Oh, ho! The most important question that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time…

Not really, but it’s an interesting question nonetheless, one that has been recently discussed in a Facebook group I’m in among friends I’ve known for years.

The headline that started this particular discussion, “North Carolina father and biological daughter charged with incest after having baby“, and the relevant parts of the story:

A North Carolina man and his biological daughter were arrested on incest charges after authorities learned they had a child together and lived as a “married” couple, according to local reports.

Steven Pladl, 42, and Katie Pladl, 20, who lived in Knightdale, N.C., were arrested on Jan. 27, according to WNCN-TV. Both were charged with incest, adultery, and contributing to delinquency.

According to the station, Steven and his then-wife had Katie in 1998 and she was adopted out-of-state. Several years ago, Katie reportedly used social media to reach out to her biological parents and moved into the home they lived in with their two children near Richmond, Va., in August 2016.

In November 2016, Steven and his wife legally separated, and his wife later told authorities that her husband slept in Katie’s room on the floor the month before she moved out.

Steven’s former wife told authorities that she did not know Katie and her then-husband were involved in a sexual relationship, until she read one of their children’s diary entries in May.

The woman told WTVR-TV that she found a drawing of Katie pregnant and her child wrote that her father told her to refer to Katie as her step-mom.

The woman told authorities that she confronted Steven about the relationship and he said he was the father and the pair planned to marry.

Daughter who was adopted away sought her parents, and later started a sexual relationship with her biological father, got married, had a baby. Was a crime committed?

I don’t see how but I am not a lawyer. I was even thinking I could contact Caldwell & Kearns PC. I guess criminal deffense attorneys should know better. Everyone were adults, and nobody was defrauded, kidnapped, or raped. The issue in most people’s’ minds regarding incest is the health of offspring. I’ve never looked for the research, but it makes superficial sense that children born to such closely genetic-related people should have abnormalities.

The general consensus seems to be that intentionally creating a child with major health problems is a crime against the child as they will have to deal with these their entire lives, which quite probably will be cut short.

Is creating a child with abnormalities and other major health problems a crime in the libertarian sense? Remember, a crime is any action that hurts another person or their property. Is that what’s happening with incestually produced children?

It’s hard for me to say that it is. Typically, a crime requires a previous state. How else are we to know when something’s been taken, or someone’s been damaged? We must know how things were before the crime in order to know how things are after the crime, methinks.

In the case of a child being born with problems, there was no previous state. Unlike a mother who drinks too much alcohol or smokes too many cigarettes after the conception of her baby, leading to abnormalities, in the case of incestual intercourse, the baby is as it always was. It just so happened that it’s DNA was mixed in such a way as to give it abnormalities or other major health problems. The previous state was total non-existence, and the current state remains unaltered.

As it stands, consensual incest is not a crime in the libertarian sense, nor is the production of offspring with genetic issues by incestuous means. If we are to categorize it as such, then shouldn’t we also categorize non-incestuous babies with genetic issues as owed restitution? Accidents are no excuse to making other people we damage whole, after all. What other implications are there, I wonder?

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Founder and editor of and, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.

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Thomas L. Knapp
Thomas L. Knapp
5 years ago

Vis a vis birth defects: IF a couple are both carriers of a harmful recessive gene that expresses as a birth defect, then the chances are higher that the child will get that gene and that defect. I’ve read (but not followed up on the claim) that a study in the Journal of Genetic Counseling put the risk at 2% higher for incestuous couples than for unrelated couples.

5 years ago

I don’t believe a crime was committed either. It may not be wise to have children via incest but I see in comments it doesnt really raise the chance of defects much. 2% is not much. Every parent passes defects and diseases onto their children. If I met someone, not related to me and we had kids, they might be 10% more likely to have birth defects then say the kids of the unrelated couple down the road. Would that be a crime?

5 years ago

Under NATURAL or its sub, Common Law, Jurisdiction, if there is no VICTIM, there is no crime and it is therefore NONE of our business

Since one can make anything up under STATUTORY( Man’s Laws) Legalities, any violation of HUMAN RIGHTS is possible

Kilgore Forelle
5 years ago

Skyler — you make an excellent point that the popular disapproval of incest is not likely supported by adequate evidence. But, if we determine that incestual offspring have a high probability of lifelong suffering, then I believe initiated violence is involved. You cite before and after cases. To me the before case is A. NO incest AND B. No incestuously damaged offspring, and the after case is A. incest AND B. incestuously damaged offspring. Did Frankenstein’s Monster exist before Dr. Frankenstein created him? Another analog would be the case of one partner knowingly has an STD, while the other partner… Read more »

Kilgore Forelle
5 years ago

Restitution is a problem here. How would it happen?

Also, I think that the preceding pair have both culpability and responsibility for whatever suffering the offspring has. The offspring may be happy to be alive, and thus willing to deal with the consequences, but that does not absolve the preceding pair of those consequences.

On another note, I don’t know how the majority fairly administers laws against incest. It looks as if this couple — AND the offspring — are victims of class warfare. I imagine that the overlords get away with this just fine.