Louisiana Statutory Rape Laws

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

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.

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, Misdemeanor Assault and Battery in Louisiana, and Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Louisiana.)

Louisiana’s Statutory Rape Laws

Statutory rape is prosecuted under Louisiana’s rape, carnal knowledge, and sexual battery laws.

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 (2018).) 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.

Indecent behavior with a juvenile. A person commits indecent behavior with a juvenile by performing a "lewd and lascivious act" upon a child under the age of 17 when the defendant is at least two years older than the child. While the statute does not define the term "lewd and lascivious act," courts have held that it can include sexual touching and sexual displays in the presence of a child under the age of 17. Indecent behavior with a juvenile under the age of 13 is punished much more severely if the defendant is 17 years old or older. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:81 (2018); State v. Domangue, 119 So.3d 690 (2013).)

First degree rape. Under Louisiana’s laws, engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a child under the age of 13 is the crime of first degree rape and is punished very severely. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:42 (2018).) For example, a person of any age who has sex with a 12-year-old could be prosecuted for aggravated rape.

Sexual battery. 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 at least three years 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 (2018).)

Child Enticement

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. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:81.3 (2018).)

Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge

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 oral sexual battery 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. §§ 14:43.3, 14:80 (2018).)

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, indecent behavior with a juvenile, 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 14:81 (2018).)

When Both Parties Are Minors: 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 (2018).)

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.

Potential Punishments for Statutory Rape

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 ten years in prison, with or without hard labor, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:80, 14:80.1 (2018).)

Indecent behavior with a juvenile is punishable by up to seven years in prison, with or without hard labor, a find of up to $5,000, or both. A conviction for indecent behavior with a juvenile under the age of 13 can result in two to 25 years' imprisonment at hard labor. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:81 (2018).)

First degree rape is punishable by life without parole at hard labor. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:42 (2018).)

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. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:43.1, 14:43.2, 14:43.3 (2018).)

Certain offenders can also be ordered to undergo chemical castration. The court has the option of ordering this punishment for first-time offenders, but it must impose it for repeat offenders. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 43.6.)

Sex Offender Registration

Under Louisiana’s sex offender registration law, people convicted of first degree 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 (2018).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

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. Laws can change at any time, and an attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

Help for Sexual Assault and Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.

Updated August 7, 2018

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