Bill Would Change State Law Allowing Prosecution of HIV-Positive People Who Knowingly Expose Partners
Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Merced) has proposed legislation (SB 235) that would "lower [the] threshold" for prosecuting HIV-positive people who knowingly expose partners without informing the partner of their HIV status, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The bill would permit prosecutors to charge HIV-positive people who knowingly expose a partner without disclosing their HIV-status with a misdemeanor or felony, regardless of whether they intended to infect the partner. To be convicted under current state law, prosecutors must prove that HIV-positive people intended to infect their partners.
Under the bill, prosecutors would be allowed to use their discretion to determine whether or not to charge the defendant with the misdemeanor, punishable by one-year served in a county jail, or felony, with a maximum four-year sentence in a state prison.
Denham said, "Anyone who is HIV-positive and recklessly engages in sexual activity with an unknowing victim should be punished under the law."
Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, in a letter to the Public Safety Committee, said, "If SB 235 were to pass, the false allegations and malicious prosecutions that could occur as a result would thwart efforts to encourage high-risk individuals to get tested and treated for HIV." He added, "As a result, HIV may spread even further as individuals with high viral loads continue to have unprotected sex with uninfected partners."
The Senate Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill on April 12 (Stern, Sacramento Bee, 4/3).