Under New Mexico’s laws, people who are infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and transmit or expose other people to the disease can be convicted of the crime of battery.
For more information on the criminal transmission of STDs, see Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.
While some states have specific laws that criminalize exposing another person to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or another sexually transmitted disease, New Mexico does not. Instead, a person who transmits an STD can be charged under other criminal statutes, such as New Mexico’s battery laws.
Sexually transmitted diseases include incurable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, as well as diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chancroid (a bacterial infection).
In New Mexico, a person commits the crime of battery by intentionally touching another in an offensive way.
A person commits the crime of aggravated battery by touching or striking another, with the intent to injure, and:
Any object or substance that could cause great bodily harm can be considered a deadly weapon.
(N.M. Stat. § § 30-3-4, 30-3-5.)
For example, people who know they are infected with hepatitis or HIV and bite other people in order to infect them could be charged with using their mouths as deadly weapons and convicted of aggravated battery.
(State v. Neatherlin (2007) 154 P.3d 703.)
In New Mexico, people who intentionally strike an officer with bodily fluids (blood, semen, or saliva) or bodily waste canbe charged with battery on a peace officer if their bodily fluids or waste is infected with a contagious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis.
(N.M. Stat. § § 30-22-24, 20-22-25; State v. Jones, 3 P.3d 142 (2000).)
To be convicted of aggravated battery, the defendant must intend to injure the victim. People act intentionally when they act with a particular purpose.
(N.M. Stat. § § 30-3-4, 30-3-5.)
Under this standard, the unintentional transmission of (or exposure to) an STD could not result in a conviction for aggravated battery, because the defendant must intend to injure the victim.
For more information on battery, see Simple Assault and Battery in New Mexico and New Mexico Assault and Battery: Deadly Weapon & Other Aggravated Charges.
Additionally, if a person knows that he or she is infected with HIV (or another STD that could cause death) and has unprotected sex with a partner in order to intentionally infect the partner with the disease, the person could in theory be charged with attempted murder.
(N.M. Stat. § 30-2-1.)
In New Mexico, sex crimes, such as criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact, and criminal sexual contact of a child are punished more severely if the victim suffers “serious person injury,” such as the infliction of any disease, extreme mental anguish, or impairment of the sexual organs. The transmission of or exposure to an STD could be considered serious personal injury.
(N.M. Stat. § § 30-9-10, 30-9-11, 30-9-12, 30-9-13.)
Aggravated battery is punishable by two to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. Battery is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Attempted murder is punishable by up to nine years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Sex crimes that cause serious personal injury are punishable by 18 months to fifteen years in prison and a fine of $5,000 to $12,500.
(N.M. Stat. § § 30-2-1, 30-3-4, 30-3-5, 30-9-11, 30-9-12, 30-9-13, 31-18-15, 31-19-1.)
Transmitting or exposing someone else to an STD can result in a battery conviction, with serious consequences, including time in prison. If you are charged with battery, you should contact a New Mexico criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court, depending on the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case and the facts. With an attorney’s help, you can hopefully obtain the best outcome in your case, such as a dismissal, acquittal, reduction in charges, or lesser sentence than the maximum allowed by law.