The age of consent can be a difficult subject to navigate, particularly in “Romeo and Juliet” relationships where a teenager gets involved with someone in their early 20’s. In 2018, Kentucky updated its age of consent law, drawing a bright line as to when teens can consent to sex — and how old is too old for their sexual partners.
Yet some aspects of Kentucky law are confusing, like the fact that 17-year-olds can engage in sex with someone 10 years their senior, but can only legally marry someone up to 4 years older than they are (and only with permission of the court). Learning more about the changes to Kentucky law from a Lexington sex offense lawyer can help keep you out of trouble.
Legal Age of Consent in Kentucky Is 16
Under Kentucky law, a person must be 16 years old to consent to a sexual act. However, it is critical to understand that this does not mean that anyone aged 16 or older can consent to sexual activity with any other person. A person under the age of 18 is a minor under Kentucky law. As a result, there are restrictions who a 16-year-old can consent to have sex with under a relatively recent Kentucky law.
On July 14, 2018, Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 510.020 went into effect. Under KRS 510.020(3), 16 and 17-year-olds cannot engage in sexual acts with anyone who is more than 10 years older than they are. There is an exception to this law for persons who are legally married to each other (i.e., a person can consent to sexual activity with their spouse, even if he or she is more than 10 years older than they are). However, Kentucky law regarding the marriage of minors also changed in July 2018.
Under KRS 402.020, no one under the age of 18 may legally marry in Kentucky, except that a 17 year old may petition a district or family court to obtain permission to get married. If the intended spouse is more than 4 years older than the minor, then the petition will be denied.
If effect, this means that a 16-year-old can consent to sexual activity, but only if the person is 26 or younger. Under Kentucky’s new marriage laws, a 17-year-old could consent to sex with a person up to 27 years of age, but would be prohibited from marrying anyone older than 21 years old.
What Is Consent?
The topic of consent has received a fair amount of attention in both local and national news. It can be a difficult concept, particularly in the heat of the moment. In this specific situation, however, “consent” is relatively simple.
The “age of consent” means that a person is of an age that he or she can legally decide whether or not to engage in sexual activity with another person. In other words, it is a legal concept that sets an age by which a teenager can decide whether to consent to sex (with this “consent” being the more complicated type).
The age of consent is important, as it is the basis for statutory rape laws. Statutory rape is what is known as a strict liability crime. To be convict a person of statutory rape, the prosecutor does not need to show that the defendant used force, violence or coercion.
The only determining factor is the age of the alleged victim and the age of the defendant. That is why it is vital to understand age of consent laws, particularly as they have recently changed in Kentucky.
Penalties for Sex Offenses in Kentucky
In Kentucky, the crime of statutory rape falls under the state’s rape, sexual abuse, and sodomy laws. If you are charged with a sex offense, particularly one involving a minor, it is critical to contact a Lexington sex offense lawyer as soon as possible. In addition to the consequences listed below, if you are convicted of a Kentucky sex crime, you will be required to register as a sex offender.
If you violate the age of consent laws in Kentucky, you may be charged with one of the following offenses:
- Rape in the First Degree: this is charged when a person has sexual intercourse (penetration) with a minor under the age of 12. It is an A felony, punishable by 20 to 50 years in jail.
- Rape in the Second Degree: this is charged with someone 18 or older has sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 14. It is a C felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in jail.
- Rape in the Third Degree: this is charged with someone aged 21 or older has sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 16, or when someone 10 years older than a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old engages in sexual intercourse with them. It is a D felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in jail.
- Sexual Abuse in the First Degree: this involves sexual contact (touching) with a child under the age of 12, or when anyone aged 21 or older has sexual contact with someone under the age of 16. In the first situation, it is a C felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in jail. In the second situation, it is a D felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in jail.
- Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree: when a person between the ages of 18 and 21 has sexual contact with someone under 16, this may be charged. It is an A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
- Sodomy in the First Degree: this is charged when a person engages in oral or anal sex with a person under the age of 12. It is an A felony, punishable by 20 to 50 years in jail.
- Sodomy in the Second Degree: this is charged when a person aged 18 or older engages in oral or anal sex with a person under the age of 14. It is a C felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in jail.
- Sodomy in the Third Degree: aged 21 or older engages in oral or anal sex with a person under the age of 16. It is a D felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in jail.
Given the steep penalties for sexual offenses in Kentucky, it is critical to know the law regarding age of consent. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a Lexington sex offense lawyer as soon as possible.
How a Lexington Sex Offense Lawyer Can Help
If you have been charged with a crime related to age of consent, the Baldani Law Group is here for you. As seasoned Lexington sex offense lawyers, we understand Kentucky law, and are dedicated to fighting for our clients.
Based in Lexington, we represent clients throughout Kentucky. We work with our clients to help them achieve the best outcome based on the facts of their case. Contact us today by phone at 859-259-0727 or online to schedule a consultation with a Lexington sex offense lawyer.