Transmitting an STD in New York

Knowingly exposing your sexual partner to an STD could expose you to criminal charges.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated June 16, 2023

In New York, it's a crime for a person to engage in sexual intercourse knowing they have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

How New York Defines Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

New York regulations list the following as sexually transmitted diseases:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • syphilis
  • human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • genital herpes
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and
  • scabies.

Check out New York's Rules and Regulations, title 10, section 23.1 for the complete list. New York's Department of Health now refers to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) rather than STDs.

New York's Criminal Transmission of STDs Laws and Penalties

A person who knowingly exposes another to an STD in New York can face criminal charges under:

  • the state's public health law prohibiting sexual intercourse while infected with an STD, or
  • the state's criminal law prohibiting reckless endangerment.

Penalties for Engaging in Sex While Infected With an STD

New York's Public Health Laws make it a misdemeanor for any person who knows they have an STD to have sexual intercourse with another person. The law doesn't require that transmission occur. A conviction can mean up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 55.10, 70.15; N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 2307 (2023).)

Penalties for Reckless Endangerment

New York prosecutors have also charged individuals with reckless endangerment for engaging in unprotected sex with another while knowing they were infected with an STD. A person who recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury commits a class A misdemeanor and faces up to 364 days in jail. Charges for felony reckless endangerment may apply if the person showed a depraved indifference to human life and the STD created a grave risk of death.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 55.10, 70.00, 70.15, 120.20, 120.25 (2023).)

Defenses to STD Criminal Charges in New York

The two main defenses to criminal charges for exposing another to an STD are:

  • lack of knowledge on the part of the defendant, and
  • informed consent by the victim.

A defendant who doesn't know of their infected status or had no reason to know hasn't committed a crime by engaging in sex with another. While New York law doesn't specifically address consent as a defense, courts have stated it would likely be unconstitutional to enforce these laws against someone who informed their partner and obtained consent. (U.S. v. Kelly, 62 F.Supp.3d 191 (2020).)

Does New York Have an STD-Disclosure Law?

There's no specific law requiring a person to disclose their STD status to a partner. However, several courts have construed the public health law to include a duty to disclose a person's positive-STD status to a sexual partner. (See U.S. v. Kelly, 62 F.Supp.3d 191 (2020) (citing court cases).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing criminal charges or an investigation for exposing someone to an STD, talk to a local criminal defense attorney. It's also possible the victim may sue in civil court. If this is the case, speak to an attorney who defends civil lawsuits.

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