Transmitting an STD in Louisiana
Louisiana law makes it a felony to intentionally expose other people to the AIDS virus without their consent. Exposing another person to infection with any other venereal disease is a misdemeanor.
It is also possible that deliberate or reckless transmission of these diseases would subject the actor to other criminal charges, such as assault or aggravated assault, depending on the circumstances.
For more information on the crime of transmitting STDs in general, see
What is Criminal Exposure to the AIDs Virus in Louisiana?
Under Louisiana law, it is a felony for a person infected with the AIDS virus to:
- intentionally expose another person to the AIDS virus
- by sexual contact or any other means or contact
- without the knowing and lawful consent of the other person.
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §14:43.5.)
HIV exposure covered
The Louisiana law uses the term “AIDS virus,” and Louisiana courts have found that the law covers cases where the person charged knew she was infected with HIV (which refers to the virus that causes AIDS) even though she did not have full-blown AIDS (which refers to the symptoms and manifestations of the disease caused by HIV).
Exposure is enough; transmission is not required
It is important to note that the Louisiana law covers acts that may expose another to infection; it is not limited to cases where transmission actually occurred. So, a person who knows he has HIV/AIDS and who has unprotected sex with another could be charged under this law even if his partner does not contract the disease.
Louisiana’s statutes do not define “intentionally expose,” but Louisiana courts have read the term to mean that the person charged under the law must have acted knowingly in exposing another person to HIV/AIDS. So, the person charged must know that he or she is infected, but it is not clear whether the person charged must have been diagnosed with the AIDS virus or if it is enough that the person should have known he or she was infected based on symptoms. It is likewise unclear whether the person charged, under this definition of “intentionally expose,” must know that the conduct he or she engaged in carried a danger of transmitting HIV/AIDS. The statute also does not define “sexual contact.” However, this law should not apply to sexual contact that has been found not to carry a risk of transmission (such as kissing on the mouth).
Any means or contact
The Louisiana law also makes it a felony to expose another person to HIV/AIDS without their knowing and lawful consent through “any means or contact,” in addition to sexual contact. The statute defines “means or contact” to include spitting, biting, stabbing with an HIV/AIDS-contaminated object, or throwing blood or other bodily substances. So, a person with HIV/AIDS could be charged under this law for injecting another person with a needle the HIV/AIDS-infected person had used first.
Knowing and Lawful Consent
The lack of knowing and lawful consent of the person exposed is an element of the crime of intentional exposure to HIV/AIDS under Louisiana law. Where an infected person charged with a violation of this law, say for engaging in sex with another, can show that he informed his partner that he was infected and the partner consented to the unprotected sex, the charges should be dropped.
Knowing consent means that the person exposed knew that the person charged had HIV/AIDS prior to engaging in the contact in question.
Lawful consent means that the person exposed had to have the legal capacity to consent. For example, if the person exposed is a minor (anyone under 18 in Louisiana), or mentally incapacitated (because of intoxication or other impairment), the person charged cannot avoid prosecution based on consent.
A person with HIV/AIDS who uses a condom but fails to inform a sex partner that he or she is infected and get their consent may still be guilty of a felony under this law.
Enhanced Penalty if Victim is a “Police Officer”
Louisiana is unique in that its HIV/AIDS exposure law sets out an enhanced penalty where the victim is a police officer performing his or her duty. The law defines “police officer” to include any:
- commissioned police officer
- deputy sheriff
- deputy marshal
- correctional officer
- wildlife enforcement agent, and
- probation or parole officer.
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §14:43.5(C), (D)(2).)
Criminal Exposure to Other STDs in Louisiana
Under Louisiana law, it is a misdemeanor to infect another person with, or do any act that will expose another person to, any venereal disease other than HIV/AIDS. (Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1062.)
Louisiana defines venereal disease to include:
- chancroid, or
- any other infectious disease primarily transmitted from one person to another by means of a sexual act.
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §40:1061.)
Neither knowledge nor intent required
Exposing or infecting another person with an STD is a misdemeanor in Louisiana, regardless of intent and regardless of whether the person charged even knew they carried the disease themselves.
Civil judgment for ex-wife upheld against ex-husband
who claimed ignorance of his STD infection
The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld a civil judgment against a man for infecting his ex-wife with herpes even though the man claimed he had never experienced a symptom of herpes nor received a diagnosis of it until after the ex-wife filed the lawsuit. While the couple was separated during their marriage, the man had had unprotected sex with multiple partners. The couple re-united but later divorced and the ex-wife learned she had contracted herpes. The court found that Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §40:1062 imposed a duty on the man to act reasonably to prevent exposing another person to STDs. His failure to warn his ex-wife of the possibility of his infection and to use means to prevent infection were not reasonable actions and violated the duty.
Here are a few of the defenses that could be raised to a charge of criminal exposure to HIV/AIDS and other STDs in Louisiana.
Lack of intent—HIV/AIDS exposure
A person charged with the felony of intentional exposure to the AIDS virus may defend against that charge by showing that she lacked the required intent. And, if the infected person was unaware that she was infected at the time of the exposure, that would be a defense to the charge because there can be no intent to expose another without knowledge of infection.
This is not a defense to the misdemeanor charge of infecting another with an STD.
If the victim of the HIV/AIDS exposure consented to sex or other exposure-risking contact with knowledge of the defendant’s HIV/AIDS-positive status, the prosecutor cannot carry the burden of proof. This means that, even if the defendant engaged in conduct covered by the criminal exposure law, the victim’s consent to the conduct (with knowledge of the defendant’s infected status) could lead to a dismissal of the charges.
This is not a defense to the misdemeanor charge of infecting another with an STD.
Lack of reason to believe infection possible—other STDs
An infected person who is sincerely and reasonably ignorant of her infection (say, because of lack of symptoms or diagnosis) and who took precautions during the conduct in question (for example, using a condom) may be able to offer both the ignorance and the precautions as a defense to the misdemeanor charge.
How is Criminal Exposure to HIV/AIDS Punished in Louisiana?
A person convicted of the felony of intentional exposure to the AIDS virus may receive a sentence of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Louisiana law provides for an enhanced penalty if the victim of the intentional exposure to the AIDS virus is a “police officer” (as defined by the statute). In that case, the person convicted may receive a sentence of up to eleven years in prison, a fine of up to $6,000, or both.
How is Criminal Exposure to Other STDs Punished in Louisiana?
A person convicted of the misdemeanor of infection of another with an STD (as defined by Louisiana law) may receive:
- a fine of up to $200 for a first offense
- a fine of $25 to $400 for a second offense, and
- a fine of $50 to $ 500 for each succeeding offense and/or imprisonment for not less than 10 days nor more than six months.
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §40:1068.)
Sex Offender Registration in Louisiana
In addition to any prison sentence and/or fine, Louisiana also requires anyone convicted of intentional exposure to the AIDS virus under Section 14:43.5 to register as a sex offender. (Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §15:541(23(a), §15:542.) The Louisiana sex offender registry law also requires that anyone convicted in another state or in a federal, military, tribal, territorial, or foreign court of a similar offense (in other words, HIV/AIDS exposure) must also register as a sex offender in Louisiana. Registering as a sex offender in Louisiana requires the offender to register with the law enforcement agency where he or she resides. To register, the convicted sex offender must provide:
- name and aliases
- residence, work, and/or school addresses and telephone numbers
- two forms of proof of residence for each address provided
- a current photograph
- fingerprints, palm prints, and a DNA sample
- a copy of his or her driver’s license and description of vehicle with plate number
- social security number and date of birth
- every email address, online screen name, social network “handle,” or any other online identity used by the person convicted, and
- passport, immigration, or other travel and immigration documents.
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §15:542(C).)
In addition, a convicted sex offender must provide:
- a description of his or her crime
- his or her name
- his or her residence address
- a description of his or her physical characteristics, and
- a photograph
- at least one person in every residence or business within a one-mile radius of his or her residence in a rural area
- at least one person in every residence or business within a three-tenths of a mile radius of his or her residence in an urban or suburban area
- all adults living in the same residence as the convicted sex offender, and
- the superintendent of the school district where the convicted sex offender will reside (who then notifies all principals and posts photographs of the sex offender in all schools in the district).
(Louisiana Rev. Stat. Ann. §15421.1.)
If the intentional exposure involved a minor, the sex offender registration law imposes a number of other restrictions on the person convicted, including prohibition on living near or working at a school, public park, or other places where children may be present, and a prohibition on using or accessing websites, chat rooms, and social media.
A convicted sex offender must register and meet the above requirements for fifteen years after release from prison for the underlying offense (intentional exposure to the AIDS virus).
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with intentional exposure to HIV/AIDS, infection of another with an STD, or any other sexual crime, see a lawyer experienced in criminal defense law in the state in which you were charged. If you are charged with any crime that carries the possible requirement that you register as a sex offender, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. Registering as a sex offender severely limits where you can work, live, and spend time, and it follows you even after the end of the fifteen years specified in the statute because it remains on your record. Do not delay in finding a lawyer.