Transmitting an STD in Alabama

Alabama makes it a crime in some situations to pass sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, to other people; or to engage in activities that might result in someone becoming infected with an STD. STD crimes are always misdemeanor offenses in Alabama, even though there is the possibility that you could be charged with a more serious crime in some situations.

For more information about the criminal offense of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease, read Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.

What is an STD in Alabama?

Alabama has adopted a broad definition of sexually transmitted diseases. Alabama law states that the Alabama state Board of Health, also known as the Alabama Department of Public Health, can designate the diseases that will be considered STDs. (Code of Alabama section 22-11A-13) Their definition includes, but may not be limited to, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Prohibited Conduct

Alabama law makes it a crime to knowingly transmit an STD to someone else. “Knowing transmission” includes engaging in any activity that would likely lead to someone else becoming infected with the STD. For example, if you know you have an STD and have sexual relations with someone else, you can be charged with transmitting an STD in Alabama. (Code of Alabama section 22-11A-21)

Infection is Not Necessary

You can be convicted of an STD crime in Alabama even if your actions do not result in the actual transmission of a disease to someone else. So, you can be charged with an STD crime if you engage in sexual activity with someone while you know you have an STD even if you do not infect that other person.

Other Crimes

In at least one instance in Alabama, a person who knew he was infected with HIV was charged with attempted murder after he bit a prison guard. Though he was convicted of first-degree assault, an appeals court overturned that conviction later. However, the court’s decision did not rule out the possibility that someone who is knowingly infected with a deadly disease, such as HIV, could be charged with a more serious crime if that person engages in actions in an attempt to transmit the disease to someone else

Possible Defenses

The legal defenses available to anyone facing the transmission of an STD crime in Alabama will differ from case to case, based on the individual circumstances.

Knowledge

Alabama law requires that a person with an STD knowingly transmit, or engage in activity likely to transmit, an STD to someone else. If you are unaware that you have an STD, you cannot knowingly transmit it. This means that if you have an STD and don’t know it, then engage in intimate relations with someone and pass an STD to that person, you have not knowingly passed the disease.

Consent

Alabama law does recognize the victim's consent as a legal defense to the transmission of an STD. This means, for example, that if you engage in activities that will likely transmit an STD to someone else, you have committed the crime of transmission of an STD even if that other person knew about your condition and willingly engaged in the activity.

Likely transmission

Alabama law also requires that you engage in activity that will likely cause someone else becoming infected with an STD. You cannot be convicted if, for example, you have an STD and engage in activity that has little likelihood of transmission. For example, if you have an STD and are involved in a car accident that results in a first responder becoming infected with an STD because she assisted you, this is not enough to be convicted of this crime. You have to engage in activity that would likely lead to the transmission of the disease, such as through intimate romantic contact or sharing hypodermic needles with someone else.

Penalties

Alabama crimes are categorized into one of two main groups: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered a less serious type of crime than felonies, even though they still bring the possibility of fines, jail time, and other penalties. The crime of transmitting an STD in Alabama is a class C misdemeanor offense.

  • Jail. A class C misdemeanor in Alabama is punishable by up to three months in jail. Shorter senses are also possible.
  • Fines. Alabama also allows for maximum fine of up to $500 for any Class C misdemeanor. The court can impose both a fine and jail time, or choose one or the other for any Class C misdemeanor.
  • Probation. An Alabama court might also impose a probation sentence instead of, or in addition to, fines and jail time. Someone on probation has to serve out his or her sentence outside of the jail environment, but with specific restrictions imposed by the court. These restrictions commonly require regularly reporting to a probation officer, not committing any more criminal offenses, paying all required fines, and finding or maintaining a job.

Talk to a Lawyer

Even though Alabama law categorizes the transmission of an STD as the lowest form of misdemeanor offense, being charged with this crime is still a serious situation. If you are investigated for or charged with an STD crime in Alabama, you need the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. An attorney who regularly deals with the local criminal justice system and its investigators, prosecutors, and courts is the only person who can give you advice about your case and your legal options.

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