Romeo and Juliet laws have been enacted in many states to reduce or eliminate penalties for consensual sex between two minors or a minor and an adult close in age. 

The primary objective of Romeo and Juliet laws is to ensure that consensual sex between two individuals close in age does not result in serious criminal charges. For example, these laws might apply in cases where one participant is a minor – but is of the age of consent – and the age difference is minimal (often within a 3-year range).

In Kentucky, the age of consent is 16, meaning individuals under 16 cannot legally provide consent for sexual activities. This is a firm line – there are no “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions. 

It is illegal in Kentucky for minors aged 15 and under to have sex, regardless of the age of their partner. As a result, it is of the utmost importance that young couples adhere to these age restrictions to avoid potential legal consequences.

Kentucky’s consent laws are already strict, but they become even more so when it comes to adults 18 or over engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor. Under Kentucky law, it is a punishable offense for an adult aged 18 or older to have sex with someone who is under the age of 16. 

Consider a freshman or sophomore in high school, 15, and a senior in high school, 18, who are in a relationship. If they have what they consider consensual sex, it is still illegal. 

Violating this law can lead to serious legal consequences, including lengthy prison terms. It’s important for everyone to remain aware of Kentucky’s consent laws in order to avoid potential legal fallout.

New Laws Regarding Age Difference and Consensual Activity in Kentucky

Kentucky made significant changes to its laws concerning age difference and consensual sexual activity in 2018. According to the new regulations, it is now illegal for individuals to engage in sexual activities with a 16 or 17-year-old if they are more than ten years older than the minor – despite the fact that the age of consent is 16. 

This legislation aims to protect younger partners within a relationship from potential exploitation by older individuals. 


When it comes to statutory rape charges, the consequences depend on the age of the victim and the defendant’s prior sex crime convictions. Each criminal statute criminalizes various behavior, but some of the most common actions and their penalties include the following:

3rd Degree Rape

When an individual aged 21 or older engages in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16, the offense is considered 3rd-degree rape. This is a Class D felony in Kentucky, and a conviction can result in a prison sentence ranging from one to five years.

2nd Degree Rape

If an adult aged 18 or older engages in sexual intercourse with a minor younger than 14, the crime is classified as 2nd-degree rape. This is a Class C felony in Kentucky, and a conviction carries a prison sentence of five to 10 years.

1st Degree Rape

The most severe charge, 1st-degree rape, occurs when an adult engages in sexual intercourse with a child younger than 12. A conviction can result in a prison term of 20 to 50 years.

Criticisms and Controversies of Romeo and Juliet Laws

Although Romeo and Juliet laws aim to protect individuals from harsh legal consequences, they are not without their critics. Some argue that these laws can undermine the purpose of statutory rape laws, which are designed to shield minors from sexual exploitation.

They assert that in some instances, Romeo and Juliet laws can inadvertently protect predators close in age to the victims. If you or a loved one faces accusations or charges of rape or any related offense, it’s vital to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced sex crimes attorney. Contact Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers, to schedule a free consultation.

Contact the Louisville 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 (502) 371-7000 or visit us at our Louisville law office.

Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers
214 S Clay St A
Louisville, KY 40202

(502) 371-7000