Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile

Posted by Jarrett P. AmbeauAug 05, 20220 Comments

This post will address the law related to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, that is, an adult having sex with a minor and the necessary age difference to constitute a criminal act. We will also specifically address the issue of consent, as there seems to be some confusion with regard to non-consensual acts that may occur under certain circumstances such as intoxication.

This post is related to the legal consequences of sex acts and makes no assertion as to whether or not someone should enter into an agreement to have sex under any circumstances. In order to follow the law, you must know the law. Every other factor related to these decisions are not within the scope of legal information or representation.

It is vitally important to understand that a sex act with someone who is intoxicated, who you know or should know is intoxicated, to a degree that interferes with their ability to consent to the sex act, is third degree rape in Louisiana. This is a crime.

If one of the participants in the sex act is a minor, under seventeen (17) years of age, then it is absolutely necessary to establish the age difference between the parties prior to the sex act, regardless of consent. If the age difference between the parties is greater than two (2) years, again this is a crime.

  The current law related to Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile in Louisiana is clear, for both felony and misdemeanor grade offenses. These are the age of consent laws in Louisiana. As such, if the sex act can be proven, the only additional element of the offense is the age difference. In other words, the prosecutor simply must prove the sex act and age difference and nothing more for conviction. This is the current law:

La. R.S. 14:80 – Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile

  1. Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile is committed when:
  • A person who is seventeen years of age or older has sexual intercourse, with consent, with a person who is thirteen years of age or older but less than seventeen years of age, when the victim is not the spouse of the offender and when the difference between the age of the victim and the age of the offender is four years or greater; or
  • A person commits a second or subsequent offense of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile, or a person who has been convicted one or more times of violating one or more crimes for which the offender is required to register as a sex offender under S. 15:542commits a first offense of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
  1. As used in this Section, “sexual intercourse” means anal, oral, or vaginal sexual intercourse.
  1. Lack of knowledge of the juvenile's age shall not be a defense. Emission is not necessary, and penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime.
  1. Whoever commits the crime of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years, or both, provided that the defendant shall not be eligible to have his conviction set aside or his prosecution dismissed in accordance with the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893. (2010).

La. R.S. 14:80.1 – Misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile

  1. Misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile is committed when a person who is seventeen years of age or older has sexual intercourse, with consent, with a person who is thirteen years of age or older but less than seventeen years of age, when the victim is not the spouse of the offender, and when the difference between the age of the victim and age of the offender is greater than two years, but less than four years.
  1. As used in this Section, “sexual intercourse” means anal, oral, or vaginal sexual intercourse.
  1. Lack of knowledge of the juvenile's age shall not be a defense. Emission is not necessary, and penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime.
  1. Whoever commits the crime of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
  1. The offender shall be eligible to have his conviction set aside and his prosecution dismissed in accordance with the appropriate provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  1. The offender shall not be subject to any of the provisions of law which are applicable to sex offenders, including but not limited to the provisions which require registration of the offender and notice to the neighbors of the offender.

These crimes are distinct from the rape statutes where consent is an issue. If the sex act is non-consensual, then it is one of three rape crimes in Louisiana. If the consent is absent because of intoxication, among other factors listed in the statute, the crime is a “Third Degree Rape”  in Louisiana, sexual intercourse without lawful consent.

As is clear in La. R.S. 14:43(A)(1) – Third degree rape – a lack of consent can be proven by showing the "victim is incapable of resisting...by reason of stupor or abnormal condition of mind produced by an intoxicating agent...and the offender knew or should have known of the victim's incapacity." 

If the assertion of a lack of consent cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the requisite age difference is a fact, then the applicable law is “Felony Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile.”

The crime of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile requires simply that a person who is 17 years of age or older has sexual intercourse with a person who is 13 years of age or older but less than 17 years of age, and there is an age difference of four (4) years or greater. The crime of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile requires simply that a person who is 17 years of age or older has sexual intercourse with a person who is 13 years of age or older but less than 17 years of age, and there is an age difference of two (2) years or greater. It is also clear in the law, in both, that; “Lack of knowledge of the juvenile's age shall not be a defense.”

In order to know what the prosecutor has to prove at trial, it is useful to examine the jury instructions given to jurors in these cases. This is the question asked to jurors when determining the guilt or innocence of a person at a jury trial.

The elements of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, taken directly from the pattern jury instructions, Louisiana Criminal Jury Instructions, Louisiana Civil Law Treatise, Chapter 10, Title 14 Offenses, §10:140, “Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile (R.S. 14:80)”, are:

"The defendant is charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

The indictment charges:

Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile is committed when a person who is 17 years of age or older has sexual intercourse [with consent] with a person who is less than 17 years of age [but at least 13 years of age] when the offender is not the spouse of the victim and is at least four years older than the victim.

Sexual intercourse means anal, oral, or vaginal sexual intercourse. Emission is not necessary, and any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.

Lack of knowledge of the age of the victim is not a defense.

Thus, in order to convict the defendant of felony carnal knowledge, you must find:

(1) that the defendant is 17 years of age or older; and

(2) that the defendant had sexual intercourse with the victim [with the consent of the victim] and is not the spouse of the victim; and

(3) that the [victim] is less than 17 years of age [but is 13 years of age or older]; and

(4) that the difference between the age of the victim and the age of the defendant is four years or greater."

This is the pattern jury instruction used in the criminal trial context and the standard by which a jury would determine if a crime had been committed. This treatise used by every Court, in every jury trial, to determine the elements of the crime and the instruction given to the jury on those elements.

            Consent, though present in the statute, is not an element of the crime. The authors in the Civil Law Treatise, Criminal Jury Instructions, are clear with regard to the issue of consent in the charge of Felony Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile, where they say in comments, "As in other situations, the authors do not believe that ‘consent' is an element of the offense." 

In addition, the authors say, "The offender cannot argue that the victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse as a defense to the charge—so that phrase is in brackets. The Reporter's Comment to La.R.S. 14:5 which provides that ‘it should never be a defense that an added criminal element was present making the defendant was guilty of a more serious offense.'”

The crime felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile is an "age of consent" crime. As the Reporter's Comment from 1950 makes clear,

"The former Louisiana statute established the “age of consent” at eighteen years. However, there was considerable feeling that this was too high, and that a reduction to sixteen years, such as that prevailing in many states, should be made. With the approval of the Advisers, it was finally decided that the compromise age of seventeen years should be used."

As this is an age of consent statute, establishing the age at which a person can legally consent to sex with an adult, it is only the age of the juvenile and the age difference in the defendant that matters. Consent is not an issue in the charge of Felony Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile.

Thusly, though consent is an issue in the rape statutes, and can be absent in the case of intoxication, the carnal knowledge of a juvenile crimes are not consent related. The voluntariness of the sex act, whether the parties agreed to the act or not, is not an issue. Its simple related to the sex act and the age of the participants.