California Law Against Knowingly Transmitting HIV Too Narrow, Prosecutors Say
September 10, 2003
A five-year-old California law (SB 705) criminalizing the act of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV is too narrow, making it difficult to secure convictions under the law, some California prosecutors say, the Los Angeles Times reports. Since the law was enacted in 1998, only one person has been convicted under the measure (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 9/10). The law makes it a felony -- punishable by up to eight years in prison -- to knowingly expose or infect an unaware person to HIV. The law also allows a person's HIV status to be disclosed if the person is the subject of a criminal investigation for committing this crime (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/1/98). Laws in 24 other states make it a crime for individuals who know they are HIV-positive to engage in unprotected sex without informing their partners of their status. However, California's law requires prosecutors to prove that defendants acted "with the specific intent" to transmit HIV to their partner or partners. The specific-intent clause has caused an ongoing debate between HIV advocates, who say the law's language protects HIV-positive people from unfounded accusations, and law enforcement officials, who say that the measure limits their ability to prosecute such cases, according to the Times.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.