Transmitting an STD in New York

In New York, it is a misdemeanor for a person who knows that he or she is infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) to have sexual intercourse with another person. People who know that they are infected with STDs that can cause death and who commit sex crimes or have unprotected sex with people who do not know of the infection may also be guilty of reckless endangerment.

For more information on the criminal transmission of STDs, see Transmitting an STD: Criminal Laws & Penalties.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

New York’s law does not provide a list of sexually transmitted diseases, but instead refers generally to “venereal diseases.” (N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 2307.)

Commonly accepted STDs (or venereal diseases) include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis, and other contagious diseases that are spread through sexual contact.

Sexual Intercourse While Infected

In New York, it is a misdemeanor for any person who knows that he or she is infected with an STD to have sexual intercourse with another.

(N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 2307.)

For example, anyone who knows that they are infected with gonorrhea or HIV and has sexual intercourse with another could be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Defenses

People who do not know that they are infected with an STD cannot be guilty of sexual intercourse while infected.

In some states, it is a defense to criminal exposure or transmission if the defendant tells the victim of the infection and obtains the victim’s consent, but it is not clear whether New York’s laws allow for this defense.

Reckless Endangerment and Assault

People who know that they are infected with STDs that can cause death (such as HIV or Hepatitis B) and commit sex crimes or have unprotected sex with without telling their partners of their infections may be guilty of reckless endangerment.

In order to be convicted of reckless endangerment, the prosecutor must show that the defendant engaged in conduct that creates a serious risk of death under circumstances that show an indifference to human life.

(N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.25.)

For example, someone who knows that he is infected with AIDS and commits sexual assault against a child may be guilty of reckless endangerment. (People v Hawkrigg, 138 Misc.2d 764, 525 N.Y.S.2d 752 (1988).)

Should People who Intentionally Spread HIV be Locked Up?

In 1999, Nushawn Williams, who has HIV, pled guilty to one count of reckless endangerment for having unprotected sex with a woman who was unaware of his infection, and two counts of statutory rape. Williams infected multiple people with HIV in upstate New York after learning from public health officials that he was HIV positive and claimed to have had sex with hundreds of women. In 2010, New York’s Attorney General tried to block Williams’ release from prison and have him civilly committed as a dangerous sex offender. The case is ongoing.

Punishment

Intercourse while infected is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Reckless endangerment is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

(N.Y. Pen. Law § § 70.00, 70.15, 80.00, 80.05.)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

Being convicted of sexual intercourse while infected with an STD can result in time in jail and a fine. If you are charged with this or any other crime as a result of having an STD, you should contact a New York criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to be treated in court, depending on the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case and the facts. With an attorney’s help, you can obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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