carnal knowledge | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

In criminal law, carnal knowledge is the act of a man having sex with a woman.

In criminal law, carnal knowledge refers to sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. The term “carnal knowledge” is an old-fashioned phrase and is not commonly used in modern legal discourse. In most jurisdictions, the act is now referred to simply as “sexual intercourse.” However, the term carnal knowledge is still used in some legal codes and statutes.

The criminalization of carnal knowledge is typically found in statutes that define the crime of rape or sexual assault. The act is often considered a serious offense, punishable by imprisonment, fines, and other penalties. The severity of the punishment can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the offense.

To establish a crime involving carnal knowledge, prosecutors must prove several elements. The first element is that sexual intercourse occurred between a man and a woman. This means that penetration of the female’s vagina by the male’s penis must have occurred. In some jurisdictions, same-sex carnal knowledge is also criminalized, but the specific legal requirements and penalties may differ.

The second element that prosecutors must prove in such crimes is that the sexual act was non-consensual. Non-consensual sexual acts are considered sexual assault or rape and are punishable by law. Consent is a crucial factor in determining whether a sexual act is consensual or non-consensual. Consent refers to the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity given by someone who is capable of giving that consent. If a person is coerced, threatened, or forced to engage in sexual activity, they are not consenting to the act.

In some jurisdictions, the age of the participants is also a factor in determining whether unlawful carnal knowledge has occurred. In many places, consensual sex between adults is not a crime, but sex between an adult and a minor is considered statutory rape or sexual assault. The age of consent varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is typically around 16 to 18 years old.

Unlawful carnal knowledge is a serious offense, and the legal consequences can be severe. In addition to imprisonment and fines, individuals convicted of such offenses may also face long-term consequences such as sex offender registration, loss of employment opportunities, and damage to their reputation.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 007/17/2021

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