HIV-Specific Criminal Laws Contemplated by Florida Supreme Court
The HIV/AIDs epidemic has had profound impact on all aspects of our lives since the 1980s when the virus was originally discovered. Since its discovery, the way in which medical professions teach us to protect ourselves has had an influence on our not only our sexual education, but also aspects of hygiene in the medical field, and the way in which institutions like the Red Cross operate and accept blood donations. Alongside the development and progress of research to find a cure to HIV/AIDs, there has been a parallel development of our laws regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDs and reporting requirements not only from the doctors to their patients, but also patients to their potential partners.
The Controversy in Front of the Florida Supreme Court
Florida was one of the first states to enact criminal laws requiring that HIV-positive people notify their potential partners of their status before engaging in sexual activity. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court has come across a case requiring that Florida reevaluate the current laws relating to criminal HIV transmission and determine what exactly is the legal definition of sex and sexual intercourse. The current legal definition of sex in Florida is decidedly referring to heterosexual, reproductive sexual intercourse. The defendant at trial has pled that he did not break the law because he and his partner technically did not have “sex,” since the definition implies sex to be between a man and a woman and not two men.
The Purpose of the HIV-Specific Criminal Laws
There is significant controversy surrounding HIV reporting laws. Not only is the definition of sex to be defined in this current case, but many believe that Florida’s law punishes people who are HIV-positive. Florida’s law has been permitted to be discriminatory because it was found in the past that this law protects the public health and therefore supersedes the rights of those who are HIV-positive.
The Distinction at the Center of the Debate: Reporting vs. Transmission
Another aspect that creates controversy with regards to this law is the fact that the law punishes those who do not notify their partners, rather than punishing those who have actually transmitted the virus to their partners. The distinction is important, as someone who is HIV-positive but is receiving treatment for the virus is virtually incapable of transmitting the HIV as the treatment creates a situation where there is an untraceable amount of the virus’ contagion.
Thus, the law punishes these HIV-positive men and women who are receiving treatment and have a significantly low (to impossible) probability of transmitting the disease for not telling potential partners of their status, rather than punishing those men and women who have actually transmitted the disease.
Other Florida HIV-Specific Criminal Laws
Florida has enacted quite a few HIV-specific criminal laws. First and foremost, someone who has not disclosed to his or her sexual partner could get a maximum sentence up to 10 years in prison. In addition, Florida has laws that can criminalize certain behaviors of HIV-positive people, such as donation of blood, tissues, and fluids; prostitution and/or solicitation; and low or negligible risk behaviors like oral sex and/or biting, spitting, or throwing bodily fluids at another.
HIV-Specific Laws in the United States
Florida is not alone in enacting these criminal laws against HIV-positive people. According to the CDC, 48 states and Washington, D.C. have HIV testing laws which follow CDC’s recommendations. Forty states, including D.C., require that all HIV-positive laboratory data needs to be provided to surveillance programs. Almost two-thirds of states have laws that criminalize any type of HIV exposure, and 14 states require needle-sharing partners to disclose their HIV status.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
Criminal prosecution of HIV-positive individuals is extremely controversial and with the significant punishments that have been put into place, it is important to be advocated for by an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.