Louisiana Statutory Rape Laws

Statutes governing Louisiana's age of consent, associated criminal charges, available defenses, and penalties for conviction.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 3/14/2024

In Louisiana, it's illegal to engage in sexual activities with an underage minor, even if the activity is consensual. A person who breaks the law can face charges for statutory rape crimes.

What Is the Age of Consent in Louisiana?

Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors younger than a certain age are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Their incapacity is written into the statute—hence the term, "statutory" rape.

The age of consent in Louisiana is 17. The state has harsh penalties for those convicted of statutory rape offenses.

Louisiana's Statutory Rape Laws

Statutory rape is prosecuted under Louisiana's laws prohibiting rape, carnal knowledge of a juvenile, sexual battery, and indecent behavior with a juvenile. The crime and penalties that apply depend on the age of the victim and defendant, their age difference, and the sexual conduct involved.

What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape in Louisiana?

A defendant found guilty of a statutory rape offense in Louisiana can face anywhere from a six-month jail sentence to life in prison.

First-Degree Rape of Child Younger Than 13

The harshest penalties apply when a defendant has sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal) with a child younger than 13. A conviction for first-degree rape carries a possible life sentence.

Felony and Misdemeanor Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile Age 13 to 16

It's also a crime for a defendant age 17 or older to engage in sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal) with a child age 13 to 16. The penalties for this crime depend on the ages of the parties and whether the defendant has a prior conviction.

Misdemeanor. If the defendant is more than 2 years but less than 4 years older than the child, the crime carries misdemeanor penalties. A guilty defendant would face up to 6 months of jail time and a $1,000 fine.

Felony. The offense becomes a felony if the age difference between the parties is 4 or more years. A repeat misdemeanor conviction also carries felony penalties. Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile is punishable by up to 10 years of prison time and a $5,000 fine.

For example, an 18-year-old who has sex with a 15-year-old commits a misdemeanor. But a 20-year-old engaging in sex with a 15-year-old is a felony.

Sexual Battery of a Child Younger Than 15

A person commits sexual battery by sexually touching a victim younger than 15 (or having the victim sexually touch the defendant) when the victim is at least 3 years younger than the defendant. The law defines sexual battery as the intentional touching of a person's genitals or anus, under or over clothing, using any part of the body or an object.

Sexual battery of a child carries up to 10 years of prison time. However, if the defendant is 17 or older and the victim is younger than 13, the crime carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years and a maximum of 99 years.

Indecent Behavior With a Juvenile Younger Than 17

A person who engages in lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 17 commits a crime if their age difference is more than 2 years. The law doesn't define "lewd and lascivious acts" but specifies the intent must be to arouse or gratify sexual desires.

Indecent behavior with a juvenile younger than 17 is punishable by up to 7 years of prison time. If the defendant is 17 or older and the victim is younger than 13, the penalty increases to 2 to 25 years of prison time.

(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:42, 14:43.1, 14:43.2, 14:43.3, 14:80, 14:80.1, 14:81 (2024).)

Does Louisiana Have a Romeo-and-Juliet Law?

Yes. 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 younger than 17 who have consensual sex with others older than 13 cannot be convicted of carnal knowledge, nor can people who are not more than two years older than their partners. 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. For acts involving indecent behavior (lewd and lascivious conduct) or sexual touching (battery), there's no crime if the parties are less than 2 or 3 years apart in age.

Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges in Louisiana

Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur." Louisiana also permits a marital defense for charges of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

However, like most states, Louisiana doesn't permit a defendant to raise a mistake-of-age defense. It doesn't matter if the defendant reasonably thought the victim was older or the victim claimed to be older.

Is Sex Offender Registration Required for Statutory Rape Offenses in Louisiana?

Louisiana requires sex offender registration for:

Adult registration requirements may be waived for a conviction of felony carnal knowledge if the victim was at least 13 and the defendant wasn't more than 4 years older. Failure to register is a crime.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 15:542, 15:542.1, 15:542.1.1 (2024).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you face charges or an investigation for a statutory rape offense in Louisiana, contact a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you navigate the criminal system and defend your rights.

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