The Criminalization of HIV Transmission

HIV transmission poses a serious threat to public health. Each year, millions of people try various methods, products, and strategies to prevent and treat these infections.

People living with HIV have their own set of concerns, and perhaps the last thing they worry about is potential criminal charges. In Texas, people with HIV are required to disclose their status and provide information to their sexual or needle-sharing partners.

The risk of transmitting HIV goes beyond a health issue; it can be considered a crime, especially if the virus is incurable or life-threatening. Cases have emerged where individuals faced prosecution and substantial prison sentences for intentionally or recklessly infecting someone with HIV/AIDS.

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system, leading to AIDS, the most severe stage of the disease. It spreads through infected body fluids, but not through everyday contact like kisses or sharing food. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can treat and prevent HIV. Without treatment, it can progress to AIDS.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that if your CD4 cell count is less than 200 or if you’re in stage 3 or 4 of HIV (in adults and teenagers), they call it advanced HIV disease (AHD). Also, all kids under 5 with HIV are considered to have advanced HIV disease.

How Does HIV Transmission Amount to a Crime?

The risk of HIV transmission can be very dangerous and even lead to death; intentionally spreading the virus is seen as almost like trying to harm someone on purpose.

Sometimes, individuals intentionally withhold their HIV-positive status from their sexual partners. In Texas, Section 22.02 of the Penal Code makes it a crime to knowingly or intentionally transmit HIV.

Not disclosing your HIV status could be seen as using a dangerous weapon to harm or kill someone, according to the law. If convicted, the punishment might be similar to what you’d get for trying to harm someone with a gun or knife. This applies even in cases of consensual sex.

While these laws aim to protect public safety, they don’t intend to punish those facing life-threatening conditions. People with HIV should take precautions during sex to avoid transmitting the virus to their partners.

How Does HIV Transmission Occur?

HIV is transmitted through contact with certain body fluids from an infected person. The primary modes of transmission include the following:

  • Unprotected Sexual Contact: You can get HIV by having sex with someone who has the virus, especially if you don’t use things like condoms during anal or vaginal sex.
  • Blood Contact: Sharing drug needles or using dirty tools for tattoos or piercings can spread HIV because the virus is in the blood.
  • Mother-to-Child Transmission: Moms with HIV can give the virus to their babies during childbirth, breast milk, or pregnancy.
  • Contaminated Blood Products: Before strict blood screening, HIV could spread through blood transfusions or organ transplants from donors with the virus.

It’s important to note that casual contact like kissing, hugging, or sharing utensils does not transmit HIV. Understanding these modes of transmission is crucial for prevention and promoting safer practices.

Penalties for Criminal Transmission

A general assault conviction is a Class A misdemeanor and is typically punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in prison
  • Fine up to $4,000

In such cases, not disclosing HIV to a partner or assaulting with a deadly weapon could lead to a second-degree felony in Texas.

  • Two to 20 years in prison
  • Up to a $10,000 fine

Someone convicted of attempted murder with HIV may face harsher penalties. Deliberate HIV transmission, a first-degree felony in Texas, carries:

  • Five to 99 years or life in prison
  • Up to a $10,000 fine

Legal Defense for HIV Transmission Accusation

Defendants facing charges for assault or attempted murder due to STD transmission can explore various defenses.

  1. Wrong person defense: saying you’re innocent by telling the court they got the wrong person and that the transmission didn’t happen when you were with the person accusing you.
  2. Lack of knowledge: If the defendant didn’t know about their STD before the sexual activity, it is considered that no crime occurred.
  3. Consent as a Defense: Your lawyer can say that both of you knew there was a chance of getting the infection. They’re saying the person who got the STD was aware of the danger and still agreed to take that risk.
  4. Medical Evidence: showing the court medical proof that questions what the prosecutors are saying, like proving that the supposed transmission didn’t really happen.
  5. Causation: questioning the direct connection between the defendant’s actions and the supposed transmission. Highlighting other things might also be responsible for the spread of the STD.

Legally Punishable STD
Intentionally infecting someone with a certain sexually transmitted infection in Texas, including HIV, may lead to assault charges.

Aside from HIV transmission, common STDs that may lead to legal consequences if intentionally transmitted include:

  • Herpes: If someone purposely gives herpes to another person and doesn’t tell their sexual partner, it can be a serious matter.
  • Hepatitis: intentionally spreading certain types of hepatitis, like Hepatitis B and C, could have serious legal consequences.
  • Syphilis: if someone purposely gives syphilis to another person without telling them, it might be seen as a kind of assault, even though syphilis can be treated with antibiotics.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

The legal consequences of HIV transmission in Texas demand careful navigation. Beyond health concerns, the intentional transmission of HIV and other STDs can lead to severe criminal charges, including imprisonment and fines.

In such cases, having an HIV transmission criminal defense attorney is crucial. Additionally, they can navigate complex legal proceedings, challenge evidence, and present compelling defenses to secure a fair outcome. Given the serious implications, consulting with an attorney is imperative for guidance and protection of your rights.

When facing charges related to HIV transmission, a reliable advocate ensures a strong defense, making a significant impact on the outcome and securing your future.