Denham Withdraws Bill That Would Have Changed Current State Law on Prosecution for HIV Exposure
Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto) on Tuesday withdrew a bill (SB 235) that would have changed a current state law allowing HIV-positive people to be prosecuted for knowingly exposing their sexual partners to the infection, the Modesto Bee reports (Stern, Modesto Bee, 4/13).
The bill would have permitted 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 have been allowed to use their discretion to determine whether or not to charge a defendant with a misdemeanor, punishable by one year served in a county jail, or felony, with a maximum four-year sentence in a state prison (California Healthline, 4/4).
Denham withdrew the bill before the Senate Public Safety Committee could vote on it. HIV/AIDS advocates, defense lawyers and some Democratic legislators had voiced criticism of the legislation.
Four people have been charged under the current state law, and one has been convicted, according to the Bee.
Nate Baker, an assistant district attorney, said that the current law "require[s] such a high burden that it's almost impossible to prosecute."
Dana Van Gorder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation said that HIV policy should emphasize prevention and education rather than criminal penalties, adding that the proposed bill could have discouraged people from being tested for HIV (Modesto Bee, 4/13).