HIV: Fail to inform your partner and face criminal charges

An Iowa man engaged in consensual sex with another man, and he was arrested for it. According to ProPublica, the man’s crime was that he did not disclose to his partner that he was HIV positive. Law enforcement conducted a blood test and found medication in his home confirming their suspicion, and the now-39-year-old was sentenced to 25 years in prison. His attorneys petitioned the court, noting that the man’s partner did not contract the disease due to preventative measures, and a judge lessened the sentence to five years’ probation. However, the man is now a registered sex offender and cannot be left alone with children younger than 14.

In Minnesota and across the country, people may be charged with criminal transmission of a disease if they knowingly engage in sexual activity without first alerting their partner of their medical condition.

Crime and punishment

Minnesota law considers it a crime for people to knowingly and directly transmit, either through sexual or blood-borne activity, a communicable disease without disclosure. It is against the law to do the following without informing the proper parties of the condition:

  • Engage in sexual penetration
  • Transfer body fluids, organs or tissues, such as donating sperm or organs unless it is part of necessary medical research
  • Share syringes or needles

The state can charge someone with either a felony or misdemeanor assault in these situations. A felony charge could result in up to 20 years, fines of as much as $45,000, or both.

Defending the allegation

The state law does grant that people accused of such a crime may employ an affirmative defense if they can prove they took reasonable means to prevent transmitting the disease. For example, in the case of the Iowa man, he was able to demonstrate that he was taking medication that suppressed HIV and made it highly unlikely for another person to contract it. Using condoms, such as the man in Iowa did, can also be considered part of the affirmative defense here in Minnesota.

There are two other components of the law that must be proven in order to garner a conviction: that accused people know they have the disease and that they did not disclose it. Therefore, in situations in which people charged with a crime were not aware of their condition or if they did share the information, the state will not be able to secure a conviction.

Minnesota law does not enumerate exactly which diseases fall under this law except to say that it must be a condition that causes serious illness, disability or death. People with questions regarding the transmission of a disease should contact an attorney.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.