Maryland Prosecutors Pursue Unusual HIV Transmission Case

First enacted during the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, many states still carry criminal laws to punish the spread of HIV. Although cases under these statutes have been relatively rare in recent years, prosecutors do sometimes pair a transmission charge with other sex crimes. Maryland has one such statute on its books and prosecutors plan to use it in an upcoming case.

Authorities in Baltimore County charged a local man several sex crimes arising from an alleged encounter with a 13-year-old boy. The defendant apparently met the alleged victim on Grindr, an adult-only smart-phone app. The primary charges in the case involve solicitation of a minor and a sexual encounter.

But this case has an unusual wrinkle. Because the defendant is HIV-positive, the government also charged him with knowingly attempting to transmit the virus. Prosecutors rarely bring these charges, perhaps in part because proving a violation can be difficult. The government has to show that a defendant knew of his or her HIV status before a sexual encounter.

Transmission cases also involve tricky questions of timing. For example, even if both the victim and defendant test positive for HIV, prosecutors still have to show that the defendant had the virus first and that the victim did not contract it anywhere else.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Edgemere man faces rarely used HIV transmission charges,” Jessica Anderson, Sept. 9, 2012