Louisiana Statutory Rape Laws
Statutes governing Louisiana's age of consent, associated criminal charges, available defenses, and penalties for conviction.
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Under Louisiana’s laws, a person commits the crime of statutory rape (also called carnal knowledge of a juvenile) by engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 17.
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws, Charges, and Punishments.
In statutory rape cases, the determinative fact is the age of the victim. It does not matter whether the child agreed to or even initiated the sexual contact. Of course, people who engage in sexual conduct against others of any age without the other person’s consent can be convicted of rape, sexual battery, or assault.
For more information on these crimes, see Louisiana Sexual Battery Laws, Felony Assault and Battery Louisiana, Misdemeanor Assault and Battery in Louisiana, and Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Louisiana.
Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile
A person age 17 or older commits the crime of carnal knowledge of a juvenile by engaging in consensual oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a child between the ages of 13 and 17.
If the defendant is two to four years older than the child, then the crime is a misdemeanor. If the defendant is more than four years older than the child, or if it is the defendant’s second (or subsequent) conviction, then the crime is a felony.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:80, 14:80.1.)
For example, an 18-year-old who has sex with a 15-year-old would be punished less severely than a 24-year-old who has sex with a 15-year-old.
The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception
Many states, including Louisiana, have “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions to protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sexual activity with others close to their own age. Under Louisiana’s laws, people under the age of 17 who have consensual sex with others over the age of 13 cannot be convicted of carnal knowledge, nor can people who are no more than two years older than their partners.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:80, 14:80.1.)
For example, a 17-year-old cannot be prosecuted for having sex with a 16-year-old and neither can a 16-year-old who has consensual sex with a 14-year-old.
A person commits sexual battery by touching the victim sexually (or making the victim touch the defendant sexually) with the victim’s consent when the victim is under the age of 15 and is three years (or more) younger than the defendant.
Sexual battery of a child under the age of 13 is punished much more severely if the defendant is age 17 or older.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:43.1, 14:43.2, 14:43.3.)
Under Louisiana’s laws, engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a child under the age of 13 is the crime of aggravated rape and is punished very severely. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:42.)
For example, a person of any age who has sex with a 12-year-old could be prosecuted for aggravated rape.
A person who communicates with a child via computer or the Internet in order to arrange for or invite the child to engage in sexual activity can be convicted of child enticement, even if no sexual activity ever takes place.
For more information on this crime, see Child Enticement Laws in Louisiana.
There are some important defenses to consider in statutory rape cases.
Marriage of the child and the defendant
It is a defense to a charge of sexual battery with a child under the age of 15 or carnal knowledge of a juvenile that the defendant was the child’s spouse at the time of the offense. The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:43.1, 14:43.3, 14:80.)
For more information on the marital rape exemption, see Louisiana Marital Rape Laws.
Mistake as to the child’s age
In Louisiana, as in most states, it is not a defense to a charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, aggravated rape, or sexual battery that the defendant did not know that the child was underage. This is so even if the child lied about his or her age or looked older.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:42, 14:43.1, 14:80, 14:80.1.)
Misdemeanor carnal knowledge is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Felony carnal knowledge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with or without hard labor, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Sexual battery is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with or without hard labor. Sexual battery against a child under the age of 13 is punishable by 25 to 99 years’ imprisonment at hard labor and lifetime electronic monitoring.
Aggravated rape is punishable by life without parole at hard labor.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:42, 14:43.1, 14:43.2, 14:43.3, 14:80, 14:80.1.)
Sex Offender Registration
Under Louisiana’s sex offender registration law, people convicted of aggravated rape, sexual battery, and felony carnal knowledge are required to register as sex offenders. Registered sex offenders must provide personal information (including names, home and work addresses, fingerprints, DNA samples, and photographs) to local law enforcement and must notify all residences and businesses within a certain distance from their home.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 15:542, 15:542.1.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance and Representation
If you are charged with a crime in Louisiana because you engaged in sexual activity with a person who is underage, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.