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