Should a person who bites a cop and who has AIDS -- or who spits at a cop and who claims to have HIV -- face extra penalties because of his or her status?
Two recent court decisions may relate to this issue.
On Friday, the New York Court of Appeals found that the saliva of David Plunkett, who has HIV and who bit a police officer in 2006, isn't a deadly weapon under state law, according to The Associated Press.
The 48-year-old Plunkett received 10 years in prison; the wounded officer didn't get HIV, but reportedly took antiviral drugs for months afterward.
The high court unanimously ruled that saliva should be treated the same as teeth, which it had earlier found do not qualify as dangerous instruments because body parts come with the defendant and cannot heighten their criminal liability -- unlike, say, a gun or a knife.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund told the court in support of Plunkett that people with HIV shouldn't face extra sanctions or penalties because of their status.
On May 15, a man from Lufkin received 10 years in prison for spitting on police officers and allegedly claiming to have HIV during his arrest for public intoxication.
John Oliphant, 34, tested negative for HIV after the incident. He claims he said, "That's how you catch AIDS," and the cops assumed that he said he had AIDS.
So this is as good a time as any to remind our readers of some basic HIV/AIDS facts.
HIV is found in specific human body fluids. If any of those fluids enter your body, you can become infected. Which fluids? Take our quiz:
C. Breast milk
G. Nasal fluid
H. Vaginal fluids
J. Rectal/anal mucous
The correct answers are A, C, F, H and J.
The others don't contain enough HIV to infect you, unless they have blood mixed in them and you have significant and direct contact with them. It is virtually impossible to transmit HIV through saliva by spitting.
Someone please remind the folks down in Texas.