In a recent blog post, we discussed how a sex crime suspect could face additional charges because he had been found HIV-positive. The way Pennsylvania's criminal law handles the situation, though, is not the norm in the U.S. Many other states have specific criminal statutes that deal with spreading HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
How Pennsylvania's Criminal Law Handles HIV
In Pennsylvania, there are no criminal laws that penalize someone for knowingly spreading an STD or HIV. Instead, prosecutors in Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania tend to press additional charges against someone who has been accused of a sex crime and who is positive for HIV. Those extra allegations are usually for aggravated assault or reckless endangerment, with the idea being that the defendant's alleged conduct recklessly put someone in harm's way, or that the alleged victim's new HIV status amounts to a “serious bodily injury” under the statute.
Other States Follow Pennsylvania's Course of Action
Pennsylvania is not the only state to use general criminal laws like assault and reckless endangerment to prosecute HIV-positive defendants of sex crimes. In one of those other states, Texas, prosecutors have claimed that someone's HIV was a “deadly weapon,” and pursued criminal charges accordingly. The courts bought their arguments and turned charges for sexual assault into charges for sexual assault with a deadly weapon if the defendant is HIV-positive. In one case, the new criminal charge led to a 97-year jail sentence for a single count of sexual assault.
Most States Have STD-Specific Statutes or Enhancements
In most states, there are either criminal laws that are designed for prosecuting people who spread STDs or HIV or penalty enhancements for existing crimes like rape or sexual assault.
For example, in New York, Public Health Law § 2307 makes it a misdemeanor to have sexual intercourse if they know they are infected with a “venereal disease.” A conviction carries up to a year in jail and between $500 and $1,000 in fines. This offense would come in addition to an underlying sex crime.
California, meanwhile, is an example of a state that expressly enhances a sentence if a defendant with HIV is convicted of a sex crime. California Penal Code 12022.85 adds three years to the jail term imposed for a handful of eligible sexual crimes in the state.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves Philadelphia
The law has taken great pains to try to curb the spread of HIV. Most of this effort comes in the form of legislation that penalizes having intercourse while knowing you are infected with an STD, or in increased jail time for other sex crimes if you are HIV-positive. However, there are also other laws that can make it a crime not to notify someone else that you are HIV-positive before having intercourse – laws that have spawned lots of controversies.
If you have been accused of a sex crime in or near the city of Philadelphia, reach out to criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento by calling his law office at (215) 535-5353 or by contacting him online.