What is Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile?

Statutory rape is a criminal charge related to sexual activity in which one person is below the age of legal consent. Many states use different terms to refer to statutory rape; in Louisiana, the charge is known as “carnal knowledge of a juvenile.” It can be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony offense, depending on various factors, primarily the ages of those involved. Louisiana law states that “Emission is not necessary, and penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime.”

The age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 in U.S. states. Louisiana’s age of consent is 17. Therefore, if a 30-year-old has consensual sex with a 16-year-old, regardless of the younger person’s sexual history and maturity level, the adult could be charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. In Louisiana, law enforcement is typically alerted to the sexual activity by a relative, friend, instructor or employer of the so-called victim. However, someone with close ties to the offender — such as an ex-wife or girlfriend — also may bring the relationship to the attention of police.

Louisiana law defines felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile as “sexual intercourse with consent” between someone who is 17 or older and another person between the ages of 13 and 16 when the difference in their ages is four years or greater. Thus, a 19-year-old could be prosecuted for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old, even if they dated in high school and planned to marry.
Like other sex crimes, claiming to be unaware of the younger person’s age is not a viable statutory rape defense. The punishment for felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile can be a fine of up to $5,000, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both. A conviction cannot be set aside, dismissed or expunged by the courts. A prison sentence has to be served fully; defendants are not eligible for “good-time credits.” A person convicted of this felony also may be required to register as a sex offender.

A felony charge also can be leveled against someone repeatedly convicted of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile relates to sexual intercourse between a person 17 or older and a person between 13 and 16 when the age difference is between two and four years. Thus, it could apply to a case of consensual sex involving a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old. The penalty upon conviction can be a fine up to $1,000, a jail sentence not greater than six months, or both. Someone convicted of misdemeanor carnal knowledge cannot be made to register as a sex offender.
It should be noted that sex with a prepubescent child is a different crime altogether, usually referred to as “molestation of a juvenile” or “child sexual abuse.” It is treated far more seriously by law enforcement than carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Challenges to carnal knowledge of a juvenile laws

Statutory rape — or carnal knowledge of a juvenile — laws exist to keep adults from taking sexual advantage of a minor. They are grounded in the idea that a person is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse until they reach a certain age. The laws also are designed to protect youths from people in a position of power or trust over them, such as a teacher, coach, or church counselor.
These laws have been criticized inside and outside of the legal community. Some say that a person under the age of consent might possess enough intelligence and common sense to make mature decisions about sex while adults might never develop that ability no matter their age.

Contact a New Orleans criminal defense attorney today

If charged with carnal knowledge of a juvenile, all is not lost. Prosecutors and courts sometimes take extenuating circumstances into consideration, such as the level of the defendant’s relationship with the victim. A felony charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor charge or dismissed altogether if a defendant has no prior criminal history or if the prosecutor’s case is particularly weak.
An experienced defense attorney can assist you with felony and misdemeanor charges involving sex-related offenses. A consultation is available through the law office of Elizabeth B. Carpenter. (504) 373-4624 or email ebc@neworleans-criminal-defense.com.