In Kentucky, the crime of statutory rape is committed by engaging in sexual intercourse with a child under 16 years old (the age of consent). It is also illegal to engage in other sexual activity with a child under age 16 or for a person in a position of trust or authority over a child to engage in sexual contact with a 16 or 17-year-old.
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape.
For statutory rape, the child’s age is the determinative fact. It does not matter if the child agreed to or even initiated the conduct. People who commit sex acts against others without their consent can also be convicted of sexual battery or assault, no matter what the age of the victim.
Rape in the First Degree
Under Kentucky’s laws, a person commits the crime of first degree rape by engaging in sexual intercourse (any sexual penetration of the female body) with a child under the age of 12.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 510.040.)
Rape in the Second Degree
A person commits second degree rape by engaging in sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 14 when the defendant is 18 years old or older.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 510.050.)
For example, a 19-year-old man who has sex with a 13-year old girl could be convicted of second degree rape.
The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception
“Romeo and Juliet” exceptions protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sex with other people close to their own age. Kentucky’s laws against second and third degree rape do not criminalize sexual activity with children over the age of 12 but under the age of 16 if the defendant is close in age to the child. For example, a 16-year-old who has sex with a 13-year-old could not be prosecuted for second degree rape and, in order to be convicted of third degree rape of a 14 or 15-year-old, the defendant must be 21 years old or older.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 510.040, 510.050, 510.060, 510.070, 510.080, 510.090, 510.120, 510.130.)
Rape in the Third Degree
Finally, a person in Kentucky commits third degree rape by engaging in sexual intercourse when the other person is:
- under the age of 16 and the defendant is 21 years old or older
- under the age of 18 and the defendant is 21 years old or older and is the victim’s foster parent, or
- under the age of 18 and the defendant is in a position of authority or trust over the child.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 510.060.)
For example, an adult coach who has sex with a 17-year-old student athlete could be convicted of third degree rape.
Other Sexual Conduct
Kentucky’s laws against sodomy (oral and anal sex) and sexual abuse (sexual contact or fondling) are organized similarly to its laws against rape. The younger the victim and the older the defendant, the more severely the crime is punished.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 510.070, 510.080, 510.090, 510.110, 510.120, 510.130.)
For example, a man who has sexual intercourse a boy could be convicted of sodomy.
Emailing or texting a child to invite the child to engage in sexual conduct can result in a conviction for child enticement, even if nothing sexual ever occurs between the defendant and the child.
For more information on this crime, see Child Enticement Laws in Kentucky.
Under Kentucky's laws, there are some important defenses to consider in statutory rape cases.
Mistake as to the child’s age
In most states, it is not a defense to statutory rape that the defendant thought the child was over the age of consent. However, in Kentucky, the defendant may raise as a defense to a charge of statutory rape (or a similar crime) against a child under the age of 16 that the defendant did know that the child was underage.
It is up to the finder of fact (the jury or the judge, if there is no jury) to decide whether to believe a defendant’s claim that he or she was unaware that the child was underage.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 510.030.)
It is also a defense to statutory rape, sodomy, or sexual abuse that the defendant and the child are married at the time of the offense. This defense is part of the marital rape exemption. (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 510.035.)
For more information on the marital rape exemption, see Kentucky Marital Rape Laws.
Rape and sodomy of a child under the age of 12 are Class A felonies, punishable by 20 to 50 years’ or life imprisonment. Felonies in Kentucky are punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
Rape and sodomy of a child under age 14 are Class C felonies, punishable by five to ten years’ imprisonment.
Rape and sodomy in the third degree are Class D felonies, punishable by one to five years in prison.
Sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 is a Class C felony. Otherwise, sexual abuse is punishable by anywhere from 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250, to up to five years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 510.040, 510.050, 510.060, 510.070, 510.080, 510.090, 510.110, 510.120, 510.130, 532.060, 532.090, 534.030, 534.040.)
Sex Offender Registration
People who are convicted of sex crimes against minors are required to register as sex offenders in Kentucky unless the defendant is under the age of 18 at the time of the offense.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 17.500, 17.510.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance
A conviction for statutory rape or a similar crime can have very serious consequences, including time in prison or jail and sex offender registration. If you are charged with a crime as a result of sexual activity with a person under the age of consent, you should talk to a Kentucky criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court, based on the law and the facts of your case, and help you prepare the strongest possible defense.