Transmitting an STD in California

The state of California has several criminal laws that address either transmitting sexually transmitted diseases or exposing others to the danger of transmission. These laws create specific STD-related crimes, and allow for enhanced penalties if people commit other crimes while infected with an STD.

If you'd like to know more about STD crimes and the laws that govern them, you can read Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.

STD Crimes in California

Three criminal laws in California specifically address people who have either the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Willful Exposure

Anyone who has any kind of infectious, communicable, or contagious disease in California commits a crime if that person exposes him or herself to others. This crime is punishable as a misdemeanor offense. You also commit this crime if you knowingly expose someone else whom you know has such a disease to other people. (California Health and Safety Code section 120290.)

Donating Tissue

If you know you are infected with HIV in California, it is a felony offense to donate bodily materials. This includes donating blood, tissue, semen, breast milk, or any other type of bodily product. (California Health and Safety Code section 1621.5.)

Sexual Intercourse

It is also a crime in California to engage in unprotected sexual activity with someone else, knowing that you are infected with HIV. If you do so specifically to infect someone else with the disease, you commit a felony offense. (California Health and Safety Code section 120291.)

Penalty Enhancements

California law also provides that a person who commits some crimes while infected with an STD will have his or her criminal sentence enhanced. These laws do not create specific crimes, but instead allow for additional penalties when a person commits a crime knowing he or she is infected with HIV.

Sexual Offenses

If you commit some sexual offenses in California while knowing that you are infected with HIV, you face a sentence enhancement of an additional three years. For example, a conviction for oral copulation in California carries up to 14 years in prison. A defendant who knew he was infected with HIV at the time he committed the crime, however, would face up to 17 years in prison. (California Penal Code section 12022.85.)


If you are convicted of prostitution, or soliciting prostitution, you can also have your penalty enhanced if you know you are infected with HIV at the time. If you knew you had HIV, you will receive a sentence as if you had been previously convicted of a prostitution crime. For example, a person who is convicted of prostitution for the first time faces a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. However, a court does not have to give you a jail sentence at all, and can instead impose the fine, probation, or a combination of the two. If you commit the crime while knowing you are infected with HIV, you will have to serve at least 45 days in county jail. A court can still sentence you to a fine and probation, but you must serve the jail sentence. (California Penal Code section 647f.)


Anyone charged with a crime in California may be able to avoid conviction by presenting one or more legal defenses. The type of defenses available to you will depend upon the circumstances of your case, but if you are charged with an STD crime you might be able to use one of the following.


Not knowing that you are infected with HIV or another sexually transmitted disease can be an effective legal defense. Unless prosecutors can show that you knew you were infected with the disease, you cannot be convicted of an STD crime in California.


If you are charged with intentionally infecting, or attempting to intentionally infect, someone else with HIV, prosecutors must show that you specifically intended for another person to become infected with the disease. It is not enough to show that you knew you were infected. If prosecutors failed to meet this burden, or you provide a defense that shows you have no such intent, you cannot be convicted of this crime.


If you are convicted of an STD crime in the state of California, you face a variety of penalties. Individual sentences for any crime will differ depending on factors such as the circumstances surrounding the case and your personal criminal history, but the following penalties are commonly given in STD crime cases.

  • Incarceration. You face a significant jail or prison sentence whenever you are convicted of an STD crime in California. For example, if you are convicted of attempting to infect someone with HIV, a felony offense, you face 3 to 8 years in a state prison. On the other hand, if you willfully expose yourself to the public while knowing that you are infected with a sexually transmitted disease, a misdemeanor, you face up to a year in jail.
  • Fines. A criminal conviction in California can also lead to a substantial fine. Misdemeanor fines can be as much as $1,000, while felony fines can exceed this amount.
  • Probation. A criminal conviction for any STD crime in California could also lead to a probation sentence that typically lasts 1 to 5 years, but possibly longer. If you are placed on probation, you will be expected to comply with numerous probation conditions. These conditions will require you to perform certain actions, such as regularly reporting to a probation officer and paying all your fines and court costs. You will also have to refrain from committing more crimes, as well as perform other duties as required by the court and your probation officer.

Find a California Criminal Defense Attorney For Legal Advice

If you're facing a criminal charge, don't delay in seeking out the advice of an experienced local defense attorney. California's sexually transmitted disease laws are very serious, and you need to talk to a local criminal defense lawyer as soon as you learn that you're being investigated for the crime, or charges have been filed against you. Never make any statements to the police or participate in a criminal investigation without first consulting a lawyer. Only experienced California defense attorneys who know how to deal with local prosecutors, police, and courts can give you the legal advice you need to protect your rights.

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