Louisiana Rape and Sexual Battery Laws

In Louisiana, a person convicted of rape or sexual battery can face serious criminal penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment and substantial fines.

By , Attorney

Louisiana divides sexual assault into two main categories—rape and sexual battery. Both crimes prohibit engaging in sexual conduct with another person without lawful consent. Both can result in felony convictions, as well as mandatory sex offender registration.

Rape applies when the offender engages the victim in oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Some type of penetration occurs during rape. Sexual battery, on the other hand, involves a defendant sexually touching the victim or making the victim sexually touch them.

This article will review the definitions and penalties for the crimes of rape and sexual battery in Louisiana.

What Are the Penalties for Rape in Louisiana?

Louisiana divides the crime of rape into three degrees, depending on the circumstances of the offense. The more severe the offense is, the harsher the penalty will be. Prosecutors charge all levels of rape as felonies, and all require sex offender registration.

First-Degree Rape (Aggravated Rape)

Under Louisiana's laws, a person commits the crime of first-degree rape by engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex with another without that person's lawful consent when:

  • the defendant uses force to overcome the victim's resistance
  • the victim is prevented from resisting by threats of great bodily harm
  • the victim is prevented from resisting because the defendant is armed with a dangerous weapon
  • the victim is younger than 13 years old
  • the victim is age 65 or older
  • the victim is quadriplegic or paraplegic or has a mental infirmity, or
  • two or more defendants participated in the crime.

For example, a person who forces someone to perform oral sex while armed with a gun could be convicted of aggravated rape. A defendant who uses force or threatens injury while committing a sex crime could also be charged with assault or battery.

Aggravated rape carries the penalty of life in prison without parole. (Louisiana law authorizes the death penalty for people convicted of rape of a child under the age of 13, but the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down capital punishment for rapists.)

Second-Degree Rape (Forcible Rape)

A person in Louisiana commits the crime of second-degree rape by engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex without the lawful consent of the victim because:

  • the defendant prevents the victim from resisting by using force or threats of physical violence, or
  • the defendant administered a narcotic or other controlled substance to the victim without their knowledge, thereby preventing the victim from resisting or understanding the nature of the act.

For example, a person who administers Rohypnol (the "date rape" drug) to someone and then has intercourse with the person could be guilty of forcible rape. A second-degree rape conviction subjects a defendant to 5 to 40 years' imprisonment at hard labor.

Third-Degree Rape (Simple Rape)

An offender commits the crime of third-degree rape by engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex with another, without their lawful consent, when:

  • the victim is unable to resist or understand the nature of the act due to intoxication or for some other reason and the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was incapacitated
  • the victim is temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of the act and the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was incapacitated
  • the victim submits to the act based on the defendant's false pretenses of being someone else, or
  • the defendant acts without the victim's consent.

For example, a person who has intercourse with a woman who is so drunk that she is incapacitated could be convicted of simple rape. A guilty defendant faces up to 25 years in prison, with hard labor.

What Are the Penalties for Sexual Battery in Louisiana?

Sexual battery involves an offender sexually touching the victim or making the victim sexually touch the offender. Louisiana breaks down this category even further, depending on the nature and circumstances of the offense.

Sexual Battery

A person commits sexual battery by touching the anus or genitals of the victim, directly or through clothing (or by making the victim touch the defendant sexually):

  • without the victim's consent, or
  • without the victim's lawful consent based on age—where the victim is younger than 15 and at least three years younger than the defendant.

A person 17 or older commits sexual battery by touching the victim without the victim's consent, where:

  • the victim is prevented from resisting because the victim is paraplegic, quadriplegic, or otherwise physically incapable of resisting
  • the victim is mentally incapacitated and the defendant knows or should know of the victim's incapacity, or
  • the victim is age 65 or older.

Depending on the circumstances of the offense, guilty defendants face 10 to 99 years in prison, with or without hard labor. An adult defendant (age 17 or older) must serve at least 25 years in prison for crimes involving a victim younger than 13 or a victim who is physically or mentally incapacitated.

Second-Degree Sexual Battery

Second-degree sexual battery occurs when an offender intentionally inflicts serious bodily injury on the victim during unlawful sexual conduct. Serious bodily injury means bodily injury that involves unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, disfigurement, substantial risk of death, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

A guilty defendant is subject to up to 15 years in prison, with or without hard labor. Offenders who are 17 or older and commit second-degree sexual battery on a victim who is under the age of 13 years face 25 to 99 years in prison. Finally, if the victim is particularly vulnerable, such as physically disabled, mentally incapacitated, or over the age of 64, the penalties include 25 to 99 years in prison.

Oral Sexual Battery

An offender commits oral sexual battery by using their tongue to touch the anus or genitals of the victim (or vice versa) when any of the following occur:

  • the victim is younger than 15 and at least three years younger than the offender, or
  • the defendant is at least 17 years old and committed the act without consent, and the victim has a physical disability or mental incapacity or is 65 or older.

Oral sexual battery carries 25 to 99 years in prison, with or without hard labor.

Misdemeanor Sexual Battery

Misdemeanor sexual battery involves a person intentionally touching the breasts or buttocks of a victim (or vice versa), directly or through their clothing. Penalties for this offense include up to six months' incarceration and a $1,000 fine.

Defenses to a Charge of Rape or Sexual Battery

Defendants charged with sexual battery or rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, starting with "Someone else committed this crime."

A defendant can also claim that the sexual conduct was consensual. However, statutory rape laws make those under 17 years of age legally incapable of giving consent to sexual activities. This means that even if the minor consented, the sexual activity was nonetheless illegal, and the defendant may be convicted of sexual battery or rape. Furthermore, those with certain disabilities do not have the ability to consent to sexual activities.

Louisiana law makes it clear that a defendant's lack of knowledge of the victim's age is not a defense to these crimes­—no matter how reasonable the offender's mistake might have been. It is a defense to a charge of sexual battery against a child under the age of 15 that the defendant is the child's spouse. However, the defense only applies to consensual activities.

Sex Offender Registration in Louisiana

Defendants convicted of certain sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders in Louisiana. Misdemeanor sexual battery convictions do not carry mandatory sex offender registration. Registered offenders must provide personal information (including their name, home and work addresses, fingerprints, DNA sample, and photograph) to local police.

Failure to register can result in an additional crime conviction that carries 2 to 10 years in prison with hard labor and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent convictions carry penalties of 5 to 25 years' imprisonment with hard labor and a $3,000 fine.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are facing a rape or sexual battery charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution's case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to the unique circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can also advise you on how the law will apply to your set of facts.

Victims can find additional information on our Victim Resources page. Among the resources listed is RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:2, :41 to :43.3; 15:541, :542, :542.1.4 (2021); (Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008).)

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