Understanding the legal intricacies related to the age of consent and statutory rape can often be complex, but it’s incredibly important. When discussing this topic in Kentucky, one question that often arises is whether Kentucky has Romeo and Juliet Laws.

What Are Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Romeo and Juliet laws, also known as close-in-age exemptions, acknowledge that the age difference between two people who are involved in a sexual relationship matters under statutory rape laws. 

These are enacted to prevent the prosecution of individuals who engage in consensual sex when both participants are significantly close in age to each other and one or both partners is below the age of consent

For example, a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old are involved in a consensual sexual relationship. Even though the age of consent might stand at 17 (which varies from state to state), jurisdictions that have a Romeo and Juliet law won’t prosecute the older teenager through statutory rape laws despite them being an “adult” due to the minor difference in their ages. 

This generally prevents high school-aged individuals from unnecessarily getting caught up in these kinds of prosecutions where consent exists between both parties.

Kentucky Does Not Have Romeo and Juliet Laws

In Kentucky, the age of consent is 16 years old, and there are no Romeo and Juliet laws in effect. This means that any individual who engages in sexual conduct with a minor under 16 can potentially face prosecution for statutory rape. It doesn’t matter how close they are in age or that it was considered consensual. 

Penalties for Statutory Rape in Kentucky

The severity of the penalties for statutory rape greatly depends on how young the minor involved in the scenario is. The penalty increases as the age of the minor decreases. 

  • If the minor is between 14 and 16 years old, it’s considered a Class D felony, which carries with it 1 to 5 years imprisonment.
  • If the minor is younger than 14 years old, it increases to a Class C felony, leading to potential imprisonment between five and ten years.
  • The most severe consequence occurs when the minor is under 12 years old. This becomes first-degree rape, where sentences range from 20 to 50 years in prison.

In addition to these severe legal penalties, anyone convicted of these offenses may also be registered as a sex offender. This label impacts nearly every aspect of life once you’re released from jail or prison, from your personal life to your professional life.

In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal to keep you off the registry, but these charges should always be taken very seriously. 

Substantial Difference in Age Law

Individuals who are 16 and 17 years old are legally allowed to participate in consensual sexual activities, but this law isn’t absolute. Kentucky has implemented a law to protect those under the age of 18, even though the age of consent is 16. 

If an individual is more than ten years older than a minor, it becomes illegal for them to engage in sexual relations with this minor.

So, even though the legal age of consent in Kentucky is 16, someone who’s 27 (which is more than ten years older) cannot legally have any form of sexual activity with a 16-year-old.

The criminal defense strategies your attorney chooses in the face of statutory rape allegations will depend upon your situation and the evidence against you. The following are three potential defenses that may be relevant: 


Evidence proving that you were somewhere else when the alleged sex offense took place could prove to be a successful legal defense. With solid proof, such as video footage, photographs, or credible witness testimonies to verify where you were during this time, you could be found not guilty.

False Accusations

Individuals are sometimes falsely accused due to misunderstandings or malicious intentions like revenge scenarios. Having evidence that shows false accusations or that shows a motive for the alleged victim to fabricate a story can help tilt the case in your favor.

Mistake of Age

In Kentucky, defendants can argue that they genuinely believed their accuser was above the age limit. For example, the minor told them they were 18, or they met the alleged victim in a bar where they were ordering and drinking alcohol.

With a mistake of age defense, the decision falls onto the fact-finder – either the judge or jury – who will evaluate the evidence and determine if they believe the claim or not.

Contact the Lexington Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers For Help Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers give us a call today at (859) 569-4014 or visit us at our Lexington law office.

Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers – Lexington
333 West Vine Street #212
Lexington, KY 40507
United States