Transmitting an STD in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, people who know that they have HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD) and expose others to infection could be charged with battery. Additionally, people who commit sex crimes and expose or infect their victims with STDs can be punished more severely.

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

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Wisconsin’s laws define STDs as: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)), syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and chlamydia.

(Wis. Stat. § 973.017(4).)

Sexual Assault

In Wisconsin, a person commits the crime of second degree sexual assault if he or she sexually assaults another and causes any disease (including an STD), illness, impairment of the sex organs, or mental distress that requires psychiatric care.

(Wis. Stat. § 940.225(2)(b).)

For example, a defendant who sexually assaulted someone and transmitted syphilis to the victim could be convicted of second degree sexual assault. It is also possible that someone who had HIV and committed rape could be charged with second degree sexual assault if the exposure to HIV caused the victim to experience mental distress requiring psychiatric care.

Increased punishment for exposure during sex crimes

Judges in Wisconsin have a certain amount of discretion when sentencing people who have been convicted of crimes. In cases of sexual assault or sexual assault of a child, it is an aggravating factor, warranting a longer sentence, if the defendant:

  • knew that he or she had HIV/AIDS or another STD at the time of the offense, and
  • “significantly exposed” the victim to the disease.

Significant exposure is the transmission or exchange of infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids.

(Wis. Stat. § 973.017(4).)

For example, someone who had chlamydia and exposed the victim to the disease in the course of rape could be sentenced to a longer prison term under this law, even if the victim did not contract the disease.

STD Exposure and Battery

What about a person who knows that he or she has an STD and exposes others to the disease through consensual sexual contact, needle sharing, or even biting? In many states, and possibly in Wisconsin, such people can be charged with assault or battery.

In Wisconsin, a person commits the crime of battery or aggravated battery by intentionally causing bodily injury or, for aggravated battery, great bodily injury. Prosecutors could conclude that people who know that they are infected with HIV or other STDs and engage in conduct that exposes others to the disease have caused (or attempted to cause) these sorts of injuries.

For more information, see Wisconsin Battery Laws and Felony Battery Laws in Wisconsin.


Generally, people who do not know they have an STD cannot be convicted of a crime as a result of exposing another person to the disease.

Usually, the use of condoms or other prophylactics is not a defense to a charge of criminal exposure.


Second degree sexual assault is punishable by up to 40 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000.

Battery is punishable by up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Aggravated battery is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000.

(Wis. Stat. §§ 939.50, 940.19, 940.195, 940.225(2)(b).)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you are charged with a crime as a result of exposing another person to an STD, you should contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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