Like many other states, Kentucky has strict laws regulating sexual activities with minors. Individuals who are still in their teenage years are still maturing and can be vulnerable. Kentucky’s laws are meant to protect those who might otherwise be unable to protect themselves.

Because of this, the state has set the age of consent at 16. This means that minors under the age of 16 cannot provide legal consent – willful agreement – to have sex with another person. This is true, even if that other person is also a minor or under the age of consent. Kentucky does not have “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions if the sexual partners are close in age. It’s simply against state law for young minors aged 15 and under to have sex.

Statutory Rape in Kentucky

Under state law, it is also illegal for someone over the age of 18 to have sexual intercourse with an individual under the age of 16. If an adult has sex with an individual under the age of 16, they would be guilty of statutory rape.

The penalty for committing statutory rape depends on the age of the other party and whether or not they have been previously convicted of a sex crime. If a 21-year-old individual commits statutory rape by having sexual intercourse with a minor who is under the age of 16 it is referred to as 3rd-degree rape and classified as a D Felony which is punishable by 1-5 years in prison.

The penalty increases significantly as the age of the victim goes down. Anyone 18 and over that engages in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 14 is guilty of 2nd-degree rape which is a class C felony and carries jail time between 5-10 years.

Finally, 1st-degree rape is defined as sexual intercourse between anyone and a child under the age of 12. In the case, the offense comes with a prison sentence that can range from 20-50 years.

Just because someone is 16 or older doesn’t mean they are automatically able to consent to sexual activity or intercourse. In 2018, Kentucky passed new legislation that made it illegal for individuals to have sex with 16 or 17-year-olds if they were more than ten years older than them.

This means that even though 16 and 17-years-olds are deemed able to consent to sexual activity under normal circumstances, if they have sex with an individual who is 27 or 28, that sexual acitivity is considered non-consensual and the older party has committed a sexual offense.

Obviously, in the case of marriage, consent would not be an issue, and while it used to be legal for minors to marry in Kentucky, the new legislation changed the legal age for marriage to 18 (though it did include a provision in which a 17-year old could petition for the right to marry if the person they were going to marry was no more than four years older than them).

Keep in mind that age is only one way a sexual act could lack consent. Non-consensual sexual activity could also happen if:

  • The sexual activity was forced or committed under compulsion
  • An individual is unable to communicate consent or understand consent because of a mental illness
  • An individual is incapacitated or physically helpless

In all of these instances, the sexual activity is deemed non-consensual and the offending party has committed a sexual offense.

Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer if Accused

Guilt, however, is not determined by arresting officers, but by a jury of one’s peers. Even those arrested for a sexual offense have rights and it is important no one violates those rights. 

In some cases, perhaps due to a strong desire to solve a sexual assault case, police officers will illegally search a person’s property or question a suspect. If authorities obtain condemning evidence unlawfully, that evidence is inadmissible in court and cannot be used against the accused.

If you have been charged with a sexual crime in Kentucky, it is imperative that you hire a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. A good attorney will make sure any ill-found evidence is dismissed from your case and also make sure you remain silent when questioned by police. 

Being accused of a sex crime can have life-altering consequences and your lawyer will do everything in their power to mount a robust defense and make sure your rights are honored by the police and before the court.