One of the most controversial laws that were passed in California on January 1 was Senate Bill 239. This bill reduced the penalties for those who intentionally transmitted HIV to others. Instead of being charged as a felony, such crimes will now be considered misdemeanors. This new law now aligns HIV with other serious communicable diseases.
The reasoning behind the change in laws is to make them more modern. California passed its most recent HIV criminalization laws in the late 1980s. At this time, HIV and AIDS were thought of as scary diseases. Little was known about them and people who had these diseases faced a stigma.
The landscape of HIV has changed dramatically since then. Medications have improved greatly, allowing those with the disease to live quality lives for decades after infection. These medications also lessen the risk of HIV transmission. These facts helped drive the change in laws.
HIV transmission was like a murder charge. The previous law primarily affects sex workers, who could be charged with a felony without sexual contact. An HIV-positive worker who solicits a person would be guilty of a felony just for that simple action. It is believed that the previous law did more harm than good.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in October. Besides changing the punishment for intentional HIV transmission from a felony to a misdemeanor, donating blood knowingly infected with HIV is now decriminalized. That’s because there are currently extensive measures in place to identify infected blood without having to criminally punish a person who chooses to donate blood.
Criticism Against the Bill
SB 239 has drawn negative media attention from conservatives. There have been several cases where men have tried to intentionally transmit HIV to others. When an innocent person is given HIV, their life changes dramatically, so shouldn’t the perpetrator be punished to the fullest extent of the law?
Lawmakers argue, however, that these cases are rare. Between 1989 and 2014, there were 379 convictions related to HIV in California. Of those, only seven involved intent to transmit HIV. The law focused primarily on sex workers, which made up 90 percent of the cases. Women and minorities were affected the most by the previous law.
Plus, it is believed that HIV exposure laws do little to counteract the behavior. As such, LGBT groups, HIV groups, civil liberties groups, and public health organizations find the previous laws outdated and ineffective.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Many laws get stricter with the new year, but this one is the exception. This is good news for those who may be accused of transmitting HIV to another person. While HIV and AIDS were once huge problems in California several decades ago, times have changed and the law needs to reflect that.
If you are facing serious charges for transmitting HIV or engaging in other crimes, seek legal help right away. The criminal defense lawyers at Manshoory Law Group, APC can defend you against such charges. To schedule a free case review, contact the team at Manshoory Law Group, APC today at (877) 977-7750.