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Criminal Liability for Transmitting HIV in Colorado

Daniel Noffsinger - Monday, May 23, 2016

Warning: This post contains language and sexual references which some may find unsuitable.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are infections transmitted through sexual contact, caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is one such STD. HIV causes AIDS and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections. Many people infected with HIV keep their infection status confidential in large part because of the social taboo associated with HIV infections.

One main outcome of an HIV infection is that it limits the infected person’s future sexual activity because of the likelihood or perceived likelihood of infecting another person. Adding to the physical and psychological stress of the infection is the potential for criminal and civil liability for transmitting HIV to an unsuspecting partner.

Each state has legislation that criminalizes the act of transmitting an STD to another person and provides civil remedies to the person who becomes infected because of lack of disclosure by the infecting person. Colorado only criminalizes HIV transmission; leaving out criminal penalties for the transmission of herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhea, for example. The following blog will examine the criminal liability a person infected with HIV may face if he or she transmits HIV in Colorado.

Knowledge of HIV Infection and Sexual Activity is a Crime in Colorado

Colorado criminalizes the transmission of HIV to another person if you engage in prostitution or patronize a prostitute knowing you are infected with HIV. Both acts subject the HIV infected person to Class 5 or 6 felony charges. Furthermore, if you are convicted of prostitution, you may be ordered to undergo mandatory HIV testing. Click here for the full text of the Colorado Statute.

Increased Punishment for HIV Infected Person Who Commits Other Sexual Offenses

People who are HIV positive and commit a sexual offense crime that involves penetration are subjected to mandatory increased punishment during the sentencing phase of their criminal action. Sexual offenses in Colorado are sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and sexual assault of a child and are divided by whether penetration of any kind was completed or only touching of genitals and other intimate parts occurred. The defendant’s HIV status is treated as an aggravating factor – increasing criminal responsibility and in turn the punishment of the underlying sexual offense.

No Infection Required

Whether the other person becomes infected with HIV is irrelevant – the only factor is whether the defendant had knowledge of his or her HIV status and engaged in sexual activity. If the victim develops HIV, the transmission of the virus becomes an aggravating factor increasing sentencing for the underlying sexual offense.

Even if Sex is Consensual You May Be Criminally Charged for Transmitting HIV

Which defense is available to a defendant in a criminal action depends on the individual facts and circumstance of the criminal charges. Lack of knowledge that the defendant is HIV positive is a defense to a transmitting HIV charge. Consent of the victim is not a valid defense to a transmission of HIV crime in Colorado. Even if the other person knows he or she is engaging in sexual activity with an HIV infected person, the HIV infected person may be criminally charged for transmitting HIV.

Contact a Colorado Springs Criminal and Personal Injury Attorney

In addition to criminal liability for transmitting HIV, there are civil remedies available to a person infected with HIV from his or her partner. If you or someone you know has been infected with HIV or is accused of transmitting HIV to another person contact Noffsinger Law for an immediate consultation on criminal matter and any civil lawsuit.