Transmitting an STD in New Jersey

In New Jersey, it is a felony for anyone who knows that he or she is infected with HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD) to expose another person to the disease through sexual contact, biting, or spitting.

In New Jersey, it is a felony for anyone who knows that he or she is infected with HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD) to expose another person to the disease through sexual contact, biting, or spitting.

For more information on the criminal transmission of STDs, see Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Under New Jersey’s laws, the exposure of another person to any STD (or venereal disease) through sexual contact is criminalized. Examples of STDs include:

  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • chancroid (a bacterial infection)
  • gonorrhea
  • syphilis, and
  • herpes virus.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:34-5.)

Sexual Contact When Infected

A person who knows that he or she is infected with an STD commits criminal exposure in New Jersey by engaging in an act of sexual penetration (vaginal or anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or the insertion of the hand, finger or object into the anus or vagina) with a partner, if the partner does not know of the infection.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:14-1, 2C:34-5.)

The defendant must act purposely or knowingly. People act purposely when they have a particular goal and knowingly when they understand the nature and consequences of their actions.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:2-2.)

For example, a defendant who had unprotected intercourse in order to expose a partner to syphilis has acted purposely. A defendant who does not intend to expose a partner to HIV but who knows that he or she is infected, does not tell his or her partner about the infection, and nonetheless has unprotected sex, has acted knowingly.

Assault and Attempted Murder

In New Jersey, if a person knows that he or she is infected with HIV and bites or spits on someone in order to intentionally infect the victim with the disease, the person could conceivably be charged with attempted murder. The person could also be charged with assault or aggravated assault. A person commits the crime of aggravated assault by inflicting (or attempting to inflict) serious injury or inflicting injury with a deadly weapon. The crime of assault is committed by inflicting (or attempting to inflict) bodily injury.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:5-1, 2C:11-3, 2C:12-1.)

For more information on assault in New Jersey, see New Jersey Simple Assault and Assault with a Deadly Weapon in New Jersey.

For example, a prisoner who knew he was infected with HIV was convicted of aggravated assault and attempted murder after he spat on and bit prison guards while threatening to kill them and infect then with AIDS (even though transmission of HIV through saliva is extremely unlikely.)

(New Jersey v. Smith, 621 A.2d 493 (1993).)

Defenses

It is a defense to the crime of exposing another to an STD that the victim knew that the defendant was infected and gave informed consent to the exposure.

Under New Jersey’s law, people who do not know that they are infected are not guilty of a crime.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:34-5.)

Generally, the use of condoms is not a defense to criminal exposure.

Punishment

Exposing another to HIV is punishable by three to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000.

Exposing another to any other STD is punishable by up to 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Attempted murder is punishable by ten to twenty years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $200,000. Aggravated assault is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000, and simple assault is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:5-4, 2C:11-3, 2C:12-1, 2C:34-5, 2C:43-3, 2C:43-6.)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

Being convicted of assault, attempted murder, or exposing another to HIV or another STD can result in time in prison and a fine. Or, most likely with the help of an attorney, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed, or obtain an acquittal or a lesser sentence than the maximum allowed by law. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to be treated in court, depending on the facts and the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case, and help you obtain the best possible outcome.

 

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