Transmitting an STD in Indiana

In the state of Indiana, passing certain sexually transmitted diseases to others is a crime in some situations. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an STD crime will be either a felony or misdemeanor offense.

By | Updated By Rebecca Pirius, Attorney

In the state of Indiana, transmitting certain infectious diseases to others can be a crime. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) crime will be either a felony or misdemeanor offense.

For general information about the crime of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease, you can read Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.

What Is a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Indiana law identifies several infectious and serious communicable diseases whose transmission is an offense in certain situations. These diseases include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), infectious hepatitis, and tuberculosis. (Ind. Code §§ 16-41-7-1, 35-45-16-2 (2020).)

What Conduct Is Criminalized?

Not every transmission of a disease mentioned above results in criminal liability. By law, only specified types or kinds of activities will subject the transmitter to criminal charges. Each transmission act has its own penalty. (In Indiana, felonies are classified Levels 1 to 6—Level 1 being the most serious and Level 6 the least serious.) The transmission activities and penalties include the following.

Child Molesting

A person who performs a sexual act with a child younger than 14 commits a Level 3 felony. If the crime results in the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease and the perpetrator knew he or she was infected, the crime increases to a Level 1 felony. (Ind. Code. § 35-42-4-3 (2020).)

Bodily Fluid or Waste Battery

If you intentionally use bodily fluids or waste to attack someone, you've committed a battery in Indiana. Batteries are punished more severely when an infectious disease is involved, with the penalties depending on the victim.

  • Peace officers, prison guards, and first responders. If your battery recklessly exposes public safety officials to HIV, hepatitis B, or tuberculosis, it is a Level 5 felony.
  • All other victims. If the attack involving an infectious disease was not against the victims listed above, it is a Level 6 felony.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-42-2-1, 35-42-2-1.3 (2020).)

For more information on assault and battery in Indiana, see Indiana Battery Laws.

Malicious Mischief

If you place body fluid or waste where you intend someone else to involuntary come in contact with it, you have committed the crime of malicious mischief. If you knew or recklessly failed to know that the material was infected with HIV, infectious hepatitis, or tuberculosis, the crime is a Level 6 felony. If someone else was infected with hepatitis or tuberculosis as a result of the malicious mischief, it is a Level 5 felony. Infecting someone with HIV results in a Level 4 felony. (Ind. Code § 35-45-16-2 (2020).)

Failure to Inform

Anyone who has AIDS, HIV, or hepatitis B has a duty to warn others when they engage in "high-risk activity" with those people. High-risk activity means engaging in sexual contact or sharing hypodermic needles. Those who recklessly violate this requirement commit a Class B misdemeanor, but defendants who knowingly and intentionally do so commit a Level 6 felony. (Ind. Code §§ 16-41-7-1, 35-45-21-3 (2020).)

Donations

Anyone who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly donates blood or other bodily components (including semen) infected with HIV commits a Level 5 felony in Indiana. However, if the donation results in someone else becoming infected with the virus, it is a more serious offense—a Level 3 felony. (Ind. Code § 35-45-21-1 (2020).)

Punishments

Indiana law allows for a range of penalties for each crime. If you are convicted of transmission of an STD crime, you typically face jail or prison time, fines, and the possibility of probation in some cases. Because a range of penalties is possible, the sentence in one case may differ significantly from the sentence in another. All felonies carry a potential fine of up to $10,000.

  • Level 1 felony. A Level 1 felony is punishable by between 20 and 40 years in state prison.
  • Level 2 felony. Anyone convicted of a Level 2 felony faces between ten and 30 years in state prison.
  • Level 3 felony. A Level 3 felony has a potential prison sentence of three to 16 years in an Indiana state prison.
  • Level 4 felony. Level 4 felonies carry a potential sentence of two to 12 years' incarceration.
  • Level 5 felony. A person convicted of a Level 5 felony faces one to six years in prison.
  • Level 6 felony. A Level 6 felony carries six to 30 months' incarceration.
  • Class B Misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor has a potential penalty of no more than 180 days in jail. Anyone convicted of this crime also faces a maximum fine of $1,000.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-50-2-4 to -7; 35-50-3-3 (2020).)

Defenses to a Charge of Transmitting an STD

Depending on the charge and the facts of the case, the following defenses might apply. As you have just learned, Indiana has several laws covering the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases; not all of the defenses explained below apply to each offense.

Donation Notification

If you are accused of donating contaminated bodily material, you can argue that you are not guilty of the crime because you provided the blood center or party that took the biological material with the proper notification of your condition. Also, you can defend against the charge if you donated the material for research purposes.

Identified Personnel

If you are accused of a bodily waste battery of an officer or first responder, the prosecutor must prove the officers or first responders were engaged in their official duties and were identified as officers or first responders. If, for example, the officer was not on duty, or the first responder was not clearly identified as such (by wearing a uniform, for example), you can defend on this basis.

Reckless or Knowing

In order to be convicted of some STD crimes in Indiana, the prosecutor must prove that you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly exposed someone else to the disease. Prosecutors typically show intent through the circumstances of the case, meaning they do not have to prove your actual state of mind at the time. However, if you can show that your state of mind did not rise to the level of intentional or reckless behavior, you are not guilty of the crime.

Talk to a Lawyer

The state of Indiana is not very forgiving when it comes to the criminal transmission of certain sexually transmitted diseases. These cases can hinge upon numerous details, such as how investigators collected evidence and what your state of mind was at the time. You need to speak to a local Indiana criminal defense attorney if you are facing a charge of transmitting an STD. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with local courts and prosecutors and can advise you about your case and defend your rights at all stages of the criminal justice process.

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