Like many other states, Georgia makes it a criminal offense to pass some sexually transmitted diseases to others in some situations. Unlike some other states, Georgia’s criminal STD laws specifically apply to a small number of venereal or sexually transmitted diseases.
For more information about criminal STD laws, read Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.
Diseases Covered Under Georgia Law
In Georgia, state law allows for criminal penalties in limited situations where someone with either human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis engages in specific kinds of activity. (Georgia Code section 16-5-60)
However, a person who intentionally or recklessly infects or attempts to infect someone else with an STD not covered under the state’s STD laws could face other criminal charges, such as assault. In such situations, it would be up to the prosecutor to determine if non-STD specific crimes apply.
Georgia law criminalizes certain activities engaged in by people who know they have HIV or hepatitis. Only those activities specifically identified under the law can result in a conviction for an STD crime.
If you learn that you have been infected with HIV, it is a crime to engage in certain types of activity in Georgia. You cannot knowingly engage in sexual contact with someone, share hypodermic needles or syringes with someone, offer to perform sexual acts or engage in sexual intercourse for money, solicit another person to engage in sexual acts for money, or donate your bodily fluids, tissues, or other bodily materials.
HIV or hepatitis
If you know that you have been infected with HIV or hepatitis, committing an assault against a peace officer or corrections officer engaged in his or her duties in which you use your bodily fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood, or feces, is also a crime. This is a separate crime than other forms of assault or battery. (For more information about these laws, see the article on Georgia Assault and Battery.)
Defenses to a Charge of Transmitting an STD
Some legal defenses may be available to you if you are charged with a criminal act of transmitting an STD in Georgia. However, the circumstances of each case will determine what defenses are available to you, and not all the defense mentioned here may be be feasible in your case.
Georgia law requires that you must know that you have been infected with HIV or hepatitis before you can be convicted of an STD crime. It isn’t enough that you suspect you have HIV or hepatitis, but rather you must have knowledge that you are actually infected.
Disclosure and consent
It’s also not a crime in Georgia if you engage in the prohibited conduct after you disclose your infected status. For example, if you solicit someone to engage in a sexual act and reveal that you are HIV-positive, you have not committed a crime if you made the disclosure prior to the solicitation or prior to engaging in the act. However, it is a crime if you tell the person about your status only after you have engaged in the prohibited conduct.
If you are accused of assaulting a law enforcement or corrections officer while you are HIV positive, you cannot be convicted of the crime unless the officer was identified as such and engaged in his or her duties. For example, you have not committed this crime if you assaulted a police officer while he or she was off duty and not in uniform, even though you may have committed other crimes.
Committing any of the prohibited acts when you are infected with HIV or hepatitis is always a felony offense in Georgia. Felony crimes have the possibility of resulting in a year or more in a state prison. If you are convicted of engaging in unlawful activity when you are infected with HIV, you face a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in the Georgia state prison. If you are convicted of assaulting a peace officer or corrections officer while you have HIV or hepatitis, you face a possible sentence of no less than five years and no more than 20 years in prison. However, there are other factors that apply in sentencing that may result in additional or lengthy punishments.
- Repeat Offenders. If you have been previously convicted of a felony in any state, or were convicted of a misdemeanor offense in another state that would have been a felony offense in Georgia, you will have to serve the maximum prison sentence available. However, the judge may also be able to suspend the maximum sentence and instead order probation. (Georgia Code section 17-10-7)
- Probation. Judges in Georgia have the ability to order probation in some felony cases. If the judge orders probation, you serve your sentence outside of prison but are limited in what you can do. You have to comply with specific probation conditions, such as regularly reporting to your probation officer, asking the officer if you can move or leave the jurisdiction, not committing more crimes, and paying all fines.
- Fines. If you receive a probation sentence for an STD crime in Georgia the judge may also impose a fine of up to $100,000 as a condition of probation. (Georgia Code section 17-10-8)
Talk to a Lawyer
A conviction for transmitting an STD in Georgia brings very serious consequences with it. In addition to possibly spending years in jail and paying substantial fines, your life can be permanently changed even if you are charged and never convicted. You need to find an experienced defense attorney in your area if you are ever charged with a crime in Georgia. Only an attorney with experience dealing with local courts, police, and prosecutors can advise you about your case in light of the circumstances and the law. Any delay in seeking advice from a local lawyer can seriously damage your legal rights and the chances of successfully defending your case.