September 25, 2012
In a split decision September 24, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of an HIV-positive man who was accused of passing the virus to another man through unprotected sex. The court ruled that the statute was ambiguous. In October of 2011, the man was convicted of attempted first-degree assault under a statute that makes it a crime to knowingly transfer a communicable disease by having sex with another person without having first informed the other person of one's HIV-positive status. The second part of the statute makes it illegal to spread the disease by transferring blood, sperm, organs, or tissue, except as deemed necessary for medical research, or if disclosed on donor screening forms. The man was found not guilty of the first part of the statute because he had revealed his HIV-positive status before he had sex with the alleged victim in 2009, but was convicted of the second section of the statute. The appeals court has now reversed the conviction. Judge Larry Collins was the lone dissenter of the appeals case, stating that the statute is clear, and a reasonable person would understand that an infected person may engage in unprotected sex, as long as the person discloses that he has a disease, but should not transfer sperm to the other person. However, the accused man's attorney argued that the second section applies only to medical procedures, and "any other interpretation [of the statute] yields absurd results," according to the appeals court decision. The man's attorney stated that he was pleased the court ruling showed that if a person with a communicable disease informs his or her partner, it is not a crime to engage in consensual sex.