What is the legal basis for the charge of incest?

At its most basic level, incest is defined as sexual relations or marriage between close relatives. In Louisiana, sex and/or marriage between parents and children, brothers and sisters, uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews, or grandchildren and grandparents is expressly prohibited. First cousins may not marry in the Bayou State, but are free to have intimate relations as long as both are adults. Marriage between first cousins is allowed in many other states.

The historic justification for outlawing incest is the need to avoid inbreeding, or reproduction between people who share a close genetic background. Inbreeding can lead to severe genetic disorders in children born to these unions. Inbred children are at great risk for developmental and physical disabilities — even death.

However, incest laws extend beyond blood relations. There are restrictions on sex and marriage between adoptive relations or relations as a result of marriage such as stepparents and stepchildren. A 55-year-old stepfather who has sex with his 22-year-old stepdaughter could end up being charged with incest. With that said, charges in cases of incest between adults are relatively rare these days.
The most serious incest crimes relate to sexual activity between adults and children. If police were to find out that an adult man engaged in sexual intercourse with his pre-teenage daughter, the man almost certainly would be charged with a felony sex crime. Likewise, sexual relations between an adult aunt and her teenage (under 18) nephew could lead to child sex-abuse charges with dire consequences.
Louisiana law defines this as aggravated incest — “the engaging in any (sexual act) with a person who is under 18 years of age and who is known to the offender as any of the following biological, step, or adoptive relatives: child, grandchild of any degree, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece.” A person convicted of aggravated incest faces a fine of up to $50,000 and/or prison time of between five and 20 years. The penalties are harsher if the victim is 13 or younger.

Mounting an incest defense

  • Common legal defenses against incest or aggravated incest accusations include:
  • Proving that you were a minor when the activity took place
  • Failing to know that you were related to the other person
  • False accusations.

Should you face such charges, a skilled criminal defense attorney can work on your behalf toward some satisfactory legal outcome. This may or may not include reduced or dismissed charges or a lighter sentence following conviction.

Contact Elizabeth B. Carpenter, a New Orleans criminal defense attorney, to plan your defense.

The consequences of a conviction on incest charges or any other sexual crime are severe and long lasting. If you or a loved one have been accused of a sexual offense, don’t face it alone. Contact New Orleans attorney Elizabeth B. Carpenter by calling (504) 373-4624 or emailing ebc@neworleans-criminal-defense.com to schedule a consultation with a skilled and experienced defense attorney that will fight for your rights and freedom.