The state of Florida has several laws that criminalize certain conduct engaged in by people who have sexually transmissible diseases (STDs). Florida's criminal STD laws are—when compared to other states—rather broad. If you engage in sexual activity in Florida knowing that you have a sexually transmissible disease, you could be charged with a crime.
Yes, it can be. There are several Florida criminal laws that criminalize specific types of conduct engaged in by people who know they have an STD.
Under Florida law, STDs include:
Florida's laws are strict in that exposure alone is a crime. These crimes don't require that a person with an STD actually infect someone else. Engaging in prohibited activity, even if that activity does not lead to the transmission of a disease, is illegal.
Florida has several crimes relating to knowing exposure of an STD through sexual and other high-risk activity.
It's a crime for anyone who knows they have an STD to have sexual intercourse with another. A conviction for this offense carries first-degree misdemeanor penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the defendant has HIV, the penalty is a felony in the third degree for a first offense and a felony in the first degree for repeat violations. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison, and first-degree felonies have penalties of up to 30 years in prison.
It's a complete defense to this offense if the defendant informs the sexual partner of their STD status and receives the sexual partner's consent to engage in sex.
(Fla. Stat. §§ 384.24, 384.34 (2022).)
Anyone who is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, a crime that involves the transmission of bodily fluids must undergo HIV testing. A defendant who tests positive for HIV will face additional charges of criminal transmission of HIV if they commit one of the listed crimes again. The crimes included under this law include, but are not limited to, sexual battery, incest, assault, aggravated assault and battery, and child abuse.
Criminal transmission of HIV is a third-degree felony in Florida and carries up to five years in prison. Despite its name, a person can be found guilty even if no transmission or infection occurs.
In most circumstances, it's a defense to the crime if the person discloses their HIV-positive status and gains consent from the exposed individual.
(Fla. Stat. § 775.0877 (2022).)
Florida law makes it illegal for anyone to engage in prostitution or procure another person for prostitution knowing that they are infected with an STD. If you engage in such behavior you commit a first-degree misdemeanor offense and face up to a year in jail.
Harsher penalties apply if the person has HIV. For this crime, the defendant doesn't even have to engage in sex. It's a third-degree felony for anyone, while knowingly infected with HIV, to engage in prostitution, solicit a prostitute, or offer to engage in prostitution.
(Fla. Stat. § 796.08 (2022).)
Florida law doesn't specifically require a person to disclose an STD to a former or current sexual partner. But the decision to tell a current sexual partner can be a defense against criminal charges for unlawfully engaging in sexual intercourse with an STD. For instance, if you have herpes and inform your partner (before engaging in sex) and the partner consents, you haven't committed a crime.
The legal defenses available to you in a criminal case will differ depending on your individual circumstances. Only an attorney can tell you what defenses may apply in your situation, but some of the following may be applicable in STD crime cases in Florida.
Florida's STD laws require that a person know that they've been infected with an STD or informed of a positive test. If you don't know you have an STD, you cannot be convicted of an STD crime.
If you are charged with an STD crime in Florida, voluntary and informed consent by the exposed individual may provide a defense to charges.
If you're facing criminal charges, talk to a local criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can help you understand the charges and their potential penalties, navigate the criminal legal system, and evaluate possible defenses.