In North Carolina, people who know that they are infected with HIV/AIDS can be convicted of a crime if they fail to use condoms or inform their sex partners of their infections. People who know that they are infected with any sexually transmitted diseases and expose other people can also be charged with assault.
For more information on the criminal transmission of STDs, see Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
While some states specifically criminalize the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), North Carolina does not. Instead, North Carolina law requires that anyone who has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) to comply with certain regulations intended to control the spread of the disease.
Additionally, anyone who knows that he or she is infected with HIV or another STD such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, or hepatitis, and exposes another person could potentially be charged with assault.
Control of HIV/AIDS
In North Carolina, public health officials have enacted regulations intended to control the spread of certain communicable (contagious) diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. Per these regulations, people who know that they are infected with HIV or AIDS must:
- refrain from sexual intercourse unless they use condoms
- inform sex partners that they have HIV/AIDS before having sex
- notify previous partners or people with whom they shared needles of their infection
- not share needles
- not donate or sell blood, semen, eggs, organs or tissue, or breastmilk, and
- not get a skin test for tuberculosis.
Previous partners includes people with whom infected persons have had sex (or shared needles) since the time of infection or for the year prior to testing positive for HIV/AIDS (if the date of infection is unknown).
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 130A-144(f); 10A N.C. Admin. Code 41A.0202(1).)
A person who knows that he or she is infected with HIV or another STD and intentionally exposes another person to the disease may also be charged under North Carolina’s assault statutes.
In North Carolina, a person commits the crime of assault by physically injuring another. Assaults that are committed with a deadly weapon are felonies if the defendant causes serious injury or intends to kill. Any injury that requires medical attention could be considered serious injury. Any object or substance that could be used to kill someone, including a virus or bacteria, can be a deadly weapon in North Carolina.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-32 and 14-33.)
For example, a person who knows that he or she is infected with HIV and bites another person or sexually assaults another person may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Additionally, a person who knows that he or she is suffering from syphilis and exposes another person through unprotected sex could possibly be charged with assault.
If a person knows that he or she is infected with HIV (or another STD that could cause death) and exposes another (through sexual assault, unprotected sex, or biting) in order to intentionally infect the victim with the disease, the person could also conceivably be charged with attempted murder.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-2.5, 14-17.)
Violating the regulations regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment, to be served at a state hospital. The defendant cannot be released prior to the completion of the person's term of imprisonment until a judge has decided that the defendant does not pose a danger to public health.
Assault is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine. Assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by 15 to 98 months’ imprisonment. Attempted murder is punishable by 44 to 196 months’ imprisonment.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 15A-1340.17; 15A-1340.23; 130A-25.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Exposing another person to an STD in North Carolina can have serious consequences, including time in prison or in a state hospital. If you are charged with failing to comply with regulations regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS, assault, or attempted murder, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney will be able to navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case, which might include a dismissal, acquittal, reduction in charges, or lesser sentence than the maximum allowed by law.