The PJP Update - September 2015

CHLP Original Publication | Newsletters
IN THIS ISSUE:
Federal Advocacy Updates
State Advocacy Updates 
Criminal Case Update 
New Tools for State and Federal Advocacy
Calling All True Believers!

Increase in Attention to HIV Criminalization Yields Results

The increasing investment in HIV criminal justice work[1] has produced visible engagement of LGBT organizations in HIV criminalization and other misuses of the criminal justice system based on identity and disability-based bias.

Much has happened since the release last year of A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living with HIV, a joint publication of the Center for HIV Law and Policy, the Center for American Progress, Streetwise and Safe and The Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. These organizations and others, including Just Detention International, The Center for Transgender Equality, AIDS United, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Task Force, and Black and Pink, have collaborated on meetings to discuss policy recommendations to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons that track the Roadmap. The focus of these meetings to date has been on the use of solitary confinement and abusive police practices based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the absence of LGBT-inclusive sexual health care, including condom access, for prisoners.

With the increasingly bipartisan interest in the crisis of overcriminalization in the United States, members of the Positive Justice Project are refining their advocacy messages attacking the misuse of HIV criminal statutes to deal with public health issues. HIV criminalization is a particularly toxic symptom of this problem.

CHLP’s advocacy with the current leadership of the Office of National AIDS Policy, particularly through the introduction of our National Prosecutors Roundtable on HIV Law and Policy, has encouraged ONAP on HIV criminalization and the potential power of broad information sharing campaigns with members of the law enforcement community to positively influence current enforcement policy.

An example of this was shared by members of the National Prosecutors Roundtable. They noted that information and discussions on the facts of HIV’s routes, risks and current treatment realities resulted in the dismissal of indictments and charges in at least four jurisdictions. Following the ONAP-hosted meeting and presentations from Douglas Brooks and then-DOJ representative Allison Nichol, the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s office began requiring review and sign-off by the Assistant State’s Attorney before any HIV-related criminal prosecution can proceed. There have been no HIV-related prosecutions in the subsequent period of time.


[1] The Center for HIV Law and Policy’s work on criminal justice issues, particularly the ongoing work of the Positive Justice Project, is possible thanks to support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the MAC AIDS Fund, the Ford Foundation, Broadway Cares-Equity Fights, the John M. Lloyd Foundation, and Gilead.
 

 

Advocates Across the Country Demand More Action on HIV Ignorance and the Over-Criminalized in the NHAS 2020 Federal Action Plan


The National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States: Updated to 2020 (“NHAS 2020”) is an extremely important document for people living with HIV and their advocates – it summarizes the White House view of the status of our nation’s response to the domestic HIV epidemic and the key steps for the continuing work to address it.  If it’s not in the NHAS 2020, don’t count on it getting much attention (and financial investment) from federal agencies over the next five years.
 
However, at least as important, if not more so, is the NHAS 2020 Federal Action Plan, which sets out the particular goals and tasks that each federal agency will assume in meeting their obligations to advance the strategy.  It’s the “who will do exactly what and by when” part of the strategy, and therefore something PLWH and their advocates should take seriously.
 
After the release of the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2015, CHLP, the National LGBT Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Rights and other partners in the LGBTHIV Criminal Justice Working Group’s HIV Criminalization subgroup, drafted recommendations for needed action steps to tackle 1) broad public ignorance about HIV, STIs and identities associated with stigmatized diseases; 2) the criminalization of HIV; 3) the mistreatment of individuals living with or at risk of HIV in criminal justice and immigration detention facilities, and in the military; and 4) the need for focused prevention and health services for sex workers and people who inject drugs, including reform of law enforcement policies that are barriers to service access. More than 80 organizations and individuals endorsed the statement (attached at the end of this Update).
 
It is very important that people living with HIV and their advocates tell key federal agencies as soon as possible what their specific priorities are in terms of action steps to implement the NHAS 2020.
 
Each federal agency has 100 days from the date that the NHAS 2020 was released – i.e., until November 6, 2015 – to submit their agency action plans to ONAP and OMB (the Office of Management and Budget). Each agency’s action plan will be incorporated into the Federal Action plan as short, bulleted action steps that relate to the general goals of the NHAS.
 
To get an idea of what that looks like, check out the Federal Implementation Plan for the original NHAS in 2010.  Your recommendations to each agency contact should follow that format.  You can use the “asks” at the end of this PJP Update, or use them as a guide to formulate asks in other areas of importance to you.
 
Here are key sections from the President’s Executive Order, issued on 7/30/15 with the NHAS 2020, that list the lead federal agencies and describe what they need to do with respect to the Federal Action Plan:
 
Sec. 3.  Lead Agency Responsibilities.  While the Updated Strategy will require a Government-wide effort in order to succeed fully, certain agencies have primary responsibilities and competencies in implementing the Updated Strategy.
(a) Designation of Lead Agencies.  Lead agencies for implementing the Updated Strategy shall be:
  1. the Department of Defense;
  2. the Department of Justice;
  3. the Department of the Interior;
  4. the Department of Labor;
  5. the Department of Health and Human Services; 
  6. the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  7. the Department of Education;
  8. the Department of Veterans Affairs;
  9. the Department of Homeland Security; and
  10. the Social Security Administration.

(b)  Lead Agency Action Plans.  Within 100 days of the date of this order, the head of each lead agency shall submit a report to ONAP and OMB on the agency's action plan for implementing the Updated Strategy.  The plans shall assign responsibilities to agency officials, designate reporting structures for actions identified in the Federal Action Plan, and identify other appropriate actions to advance the Updated Strategy.  The plans shall also include steps to strengthen coordination in planning, budgeting for, and evaluating domestic HIV/AIDS programs within and across agencies.  Lead agencies are encouraged to consider, and reflect in their plans, steps to streamline grantee reporting requirements and funding announcements related to HIV/AIDS programs and activities.
 
Sec. 4.  Other Agency Responsibilities.  …
(a)   Department of State.  Within 100 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall submit to ONAP and OMB recommendations for improving the Government-wide response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, based on lessons learned in implementing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program.
(b)   Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission). 
Within 100 days of the date of this order, the Chair of the Commission shall submit to ONAP and OMB recommendations for increasing employment opportunities for people living with HIV and a plan for addressing employment-related discrimination against people living with HIV, consistent with the Commission's authorities and other applicable law.

Sec. 6.  National HIV/AIDS Strategy Federal Interagency Working Group.  …
(a)   Membership.  The Federal Interagency Working Group shall be co-chaired by the Director of ONAP and the Secretary or their designees.  In addition to the Co-Chairs, the Federal Interagency Working Group shall consist of representatives from each lead agency, OMB, and any other agency or office designated by the Co-Chairs.

(e)   Reporting.
Within 100 days of the date of this order, the Federal Interagency Working Group shall provide recommendations to the President on actions that agencies should take to implement the Updated Strategy through 2020.

 


The Prosecutor, the Survivor, the State Health Agency Representative and the Lawyer: Congressional Briefing on The REPEAL Act and HIV Criminalization


On July 28, 2015 the U.S. Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, AIDS United and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) co-sponsored a Congressional briefing, The Over-Criminalization of HIV and the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act(H.R.1586,) for a packed room. Those who attended – about half of whom were Congressional staffers – learned about the outdated rationale and profound harm that HIV-based prosecutions cause from a panel consisting of Robert Suttle, Assistant Director at the Sero Project and a survivor of an HIV criminal law conviction; Daniel A. Kirk, First Assistant State’s Attorney at the Cook County (Chicago) State’s Attorney’s Office; CHLP Executive Director Catherine Hanssens, Esq.; and NASTAD's Terrance Moore (briefing moderator), who led his agency’s survey of state health agency policies on HIV and criminalization.

         

Left: Michael Kaplan, ED of AIDS United, one of the co-sponsors of the Congressional Briefing on the REPEAL Act and HIV Criminalization. Right: Daniel Kirk (standing) explains how information changes minds, and why he supports the PJP Guiding Principles for reform, with (seated, left to right) Robert Suttle, Terrance Moore and Catherine Hanssens.

 

PJP Steering Committee Releases Principles for HIV Criminal Law Reform

 
In the wake of recent court decisions rejecting application of the criminal law to people with HIV, the Positive Justice Project (PJP) Steering Committee released the first set of principles intended to guide the modernization of HIV criminal laws in states across the country using the criminal law as a response to so-called HIV exposure and non-disclosure complaints.
 
“Ending criminal prosecutions based on HIV or other health conditions is a vitally important part of a sound, public health approach to ending the epidemic,” said Kim Miller of the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA). “Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment,” added Ms. Miller. “That is the best way to protect everyone, since treatment keeps people healthy while reducing already low transmission risks to near-zero.”
 
Currently, 32 states have criminal laws that punish people living with HIV for conduct that would be legal if they did not get tested and did not know their HIV status. Conviction under these laws can result in decades-long prison sentences despite very low transmission risks and dramatic improvements in treatment that have transformed what it means to live with HIV.
 
Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum, Director of Health and Education Alternatives for Teens (HEAT) in Brooklyn, NY, where HIV incidence among young black men remains high, is a regular PJP partner.  “It is very important for people to know,” he said, that “on treatment, people living with HIV can expect to live long and healthy lives. It’s time for the law to catch up with the science on the real risks and realities of HIV in the twenty-first century.”
 
The Guiding Principles for Eliminating Disease-Specific Criminal Laws call for modernization of existing laws that exclude HIV and other infectious diseases from long-established interpretations of criminal felony laws requiring proof of intent to harm accompanied by conduct likely to cause death or severe injury for a conviction.  At present, most states require only evidence that a person has been diagnosed with HIV and has engaged in some form of contact with a third party without disclosure for a felony conviction and, in some cases, life-long sex offender registration.
 
“Both HIV and the prison system have a disproportionate reach into communities of color,” stated C. Virginia Fields, Executive Director of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. “Laws that make an HIV test the basis for a felony prosecution are a double burden for those at greatest risk of both HIV and entanglement in the criminal justice system. We need to end this yesterday, and we need to do it right. These principles are a great step in the right direction.”

 


State Advocacy Working Group Updates


ALABAMA
  • During the 2015 legislative session Rep. Juandalynn Givan introducedHB 50, a bill that would increase the penalties for “knowingly transmitting,” risking transmission, or engaging in any act that might transmit an STI from a class C misdemeanor to a class C felony. National and local advocates and organizations worked together to educate elected officials on the issue of criminalization of infectious disease. PJP, through its Steering Committee, and others submitted statements in opposition to the bill. After letters and testimony were considered, no vote was taken. The bill never received a second hearing and no further action was taken in the 2015 session.
 

CALIFORNIA

  • California advocates organized three forums, HIV Is Not A Crime, Criminalizing It Is, hosted by the Los Angeles HIV Criminalization Community Forum in Los Angeles, PWN-USA in San Francisco, and the Fresno HIV Criminalization Community Forum in Fresno in August.
  • The California HIV Criminalization Working Group is refining the draft modernization bill CHLP and the Williams Institute developed in 2013, with the goal of introducing it in the next legislative session.

 


COLORADO

  • The Colorado HIV De-criminalization Task Force has a new name.S.T.I.G.M.A. (STI Grassroots Modernization Alliance). You can find them on Facebook (they also refer to themselves as The CO Mod Squad.)
  • With the tenacious leadership of PWN-USA Board member Barb Cardell, STIGMA is pushing forward its HIV de-criminalization advocacy and outreach work and currently is planning four educational forums on criminalization around the state.
  • Colorado STIGMA also is working on a draft modernization bill for possible introduction to the next session of the Colorado legislature. As Barb Cardell sagely stated in a recent email, “We are taking the looooonnnnnnggggg term strategy.”
  • Upcoming Events/Meetings/Forums:
Next MeetingSeptember 29, 2015 6-8PM Mountain Time.
 

GEORGIA

  • Led by Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, the GA group submitted a draft bill to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) for consideration in the DPH agenda for 2016.  The bill was drafted by Steve Scarborough, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney, and Mayo Schreiber, CHLP’s Deputy Director. If the GA DPH takes on the bill as part of its policy agenda, it will go to the Governor for consideration for his legislative agenda for the 2016 legislative session, significantly increasing the likelihood of passage in the legislature. The bill is based on the PJP’s Guiding Principles For Eliminating Disease-Specific Laws, released earlier this year. The Georgia HIV Criminalization Working Group decided to build on the principles by adding a statement on the reality of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.
  • The DPH is meeting this month and there should be feedback shortly about its response, acceptance, and concerns with the draft.  If the DPH does not adopt the draft, the working group will move forward on its own to introduce it in the legislature.
Upcoming Events/Meetings/Forums:
Next MeetingThe week of October 12th, time and date to be determined.
 

MISSOURI

  • Kansas City HIV de-criminalization advocates Latrischa Miles, Diane Burkholder, and Holly Hanover have been meeting weekly to discuss education opportunities in their area and next steps in pursuing de-criminalization.  Diane has been working with One Struggle in Kansas City and Black Lives Matter in St. Louis to build relationships and emphasize the racial disparity and social justice issues that co-exist in HIV criminalization and the broader work of these groups.
  • Jeanette Mott Oxford, Executive Director of Empower Missouri has joined the conversations about anti-criminalization work and is investigating ways to build her agency’s capacity to take the issue up.
  • Advocates inside Missouri and across the U.S., outraged by the arrest and treatment of former college wrestler Michael Johnson for being sexually active and HIV positive, convened webinars and discussions to consider the implications of the case and how best to assist Michael. CHLP's Deputy Director Mayo Schreiber worked with attorneys at Gibbons in New Jersey to draft a pre-sentencing brief, while Mayo reached out to Michael’s family and friends in Missouri to submit statements in support of Michael to accompany the brief. Despite coordinatedadvocacy and commentary on the case, Johnson was sentenced to a total of 60.5 years; with some of the sentences running concurrently, Michael received an effective sentence of 30.5 years. Mayo is now working with Michael and his appellate attorney to assist with the appeal as appropriate.
  • In a related development, on April 3rd a bill (HB 1181) was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives to make it a felony for a person living with HIV “to project saliva at another person”. PJP’s Steering Committee sent a letter in opposition to HB 1181 to the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee. The committee also heard from local advocates and the Human Rights Campaign submitted a written statement in opposition to the bill. Apparently the opposition was successful; the bill was removed from the hearing schedule and there has been no further action on it.
 

RHODE ISLAND

  • Earlier this year, a new HIV criminalization bill, H 5245, was introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly. Rhode Island has been in the minority of states that do not have an HIV-specific criminal law. CHLP staffer Lauren Fanning’s outreach to New England-area advocates produced significant support from local and national organizations. The Rhode Island Public Health Institute, The Rhode Island ACLU, Positive Women’s Network-USA and GLAD were among those who submitted testimony against the bill. The PJP Steering Committee also submitted a letter of opposition; and SERO reached out to members of the RH House Committee on the Judiciary with PJP member resources, including anti-criminalization resolutions and statements from the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIV MA), the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), and the 2013 Mayor’s Resolution on HIV Criminalization. The bill was tabled for further study.

 


TENNESSEE

  • Aaron Campbell, who has been the principal lead on TN HIV de-criminalization efforts, left Nashville Cares at the end of July; Scotty Campbell joined Nashville Cares in August 2015 as the new Director of Public Policy.  Welcome!  Scotty was on board in time to participate in the working group August call.
  • Tennessee advocates Tiffany Moore and Sara Beth Myers worked with legislators to pass Public Chapter No. 469 this year, allowing for some of those newly convicted of aggravated prostitution to avoid becoming sex offenders and some already on the registry to have sex offender status expunged and be removed from the registry.
  • Local wisdom is that conversations that occurred while working on PC 469 have provided an opportunity to move forward with further modernization of TN’s HIV criminal law. Tennessee advocates are now working with CHLP on a draft, with current plants to introduce it in the 2016 session as a messaging tool and a vehicle to educate, assess support and opposition, and to align allies. The hearings and votes on a bill likely will take place in 2017.
  • Generous funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College will support Dr. Shannell McGoy, Dana Asbury of Healthy and Free Tennessee, and other staff to support local advocates’ modernization work.
Upcoming Events/Meetings/Forums:
Next Meeting: September 30, 2015 at 2:00PM Central Time
Normally meetings are the 4th Thursday at Noon Central Time.  September was changed to accommodate State Department of Health Meetings that includes local working group members.
 

TEXAS

  • Four bills dealing with HIV were introduced in Texas during first half of the 2015 legislative session. One, SB 779, was the focus of Texas advocates. It would have changed the law to allow a court to obtain HIV test results with a grand jury subpoena.
  • A large local and national coalition of organizations and individuals participated in efforts to defeat SB779. CHLP worked with Texas advocates to write an opposition sign-on letter, which was submitted with supporting documents to the senate committee considering the bill.
  • Despite opposing testimony, the bill passed in the Senate on May 6 and was sent to the House. Two weeks later the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard the bill and reported it out of committee. The final step for passage required taking the bill to the floor of the House for a second reading before midnight Tuesday, May 26. But that deadline was missed and the bill was eliminated from consideration for the legislative session, which officially ended on June 1. 

 

CHLP assists criminal defense attorneys in HIV exposure/transmission cases.  We are providing back-up help, from identifying experts to drafting amicus briefs, in cases in Missouri, Florida, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma. Among the cases we currently are involved in are the Michael Johnson and Nushawn Williams cases in Missouri and New York. 
 
Deputy Director Mayo Schreiber and two law firms providing pro bono assistance are working with the Missouri Public Defender’s Appellate Division on the appeal in Mr. Johnson’s criminal case. Mr. Johnson, a college student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, was given a draconian sentence of thirty and one-half years when the court found that he violated §191.677 of the Missouri Criminal Code,[1] recklessly infecting or risking infection of others with HIV when knowingly infected with HIV. The complainants in the case were men his age met through online “hook-up” sites.  His appeal should be filed by the end of this year. 
 
CHLP also is assisting Nushawn Williams. Mr. Williams was sentenced in two criminal cases in 1999 for statutory rape (sex with a minor) and reckless endangerment. In April 2010, while Mr. Williams was still incarcerated but shortly before the maximum expiration date of his sentences for reckless endangerment, the State of New York filed a proceeding under the Mental Hygiene Law alleging that Mr. Williams was a detained sex offender who required civil management. In the beginning of 2014, after various legal proceedings, the Supreme Court of New York ordered his civil confinement to a treatment facility.  His attorney has filed an order challenging that decision.  Even though Mr. Williams has served his full criminal sentences, New York State appears intent on keeping him confined indefinitely based on what his attorney argues are erroneous findings of law, a violation of his due process rights, and prosecutorial misconduct. Underlying the various legal issues in the case is the state’s unacknowledged impetus to keep Mr. Williams permanently detained due to his HIV positive status. This fall, CHLP will be filing an amicus brief in Mr. Williams’ case that will argue, inter alia, that an HIV positive diagnosis should not be a basis for civil commitment.
 
Issues for which we have been consulted in other cases are varied, including possible placement on the sex registry for “knowingly infecting HIV while performing an act of prostitution,” “knowingly engaging in conduct reasonably likely to transfer HIV virus” for spitting, a similar violation of law for biting, and the immigration detention of a man living with HIV. We were recently contacted about an appeal in a case in Ohio, where a young woman was sentenced to seven years after pleading to one count of felonious assault for allegedly having sex without informing her partner of her HIV positive status. It appears that the claimants in the case have not seroconverted. Such a sentence is an extreme miscarriage of justice. 
 
In these cases we have counseled defendants and their family members, provided legal and trial strategy advice to their attorneys, referred medical experts and immigration attorneys, and drafted sections of briefs. 
 
If you are aware of anyone charged in an HIV exposure or transmission case, please refer them to our websitewww.hivlawandpolicy.org and/or have him or her, or his or her lawyer, contact CHLP (212-430-6733) for assistance.


[1] To read the text of the Missouri Law under which Mr. Johnson was convicted, see Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions, The Center for HIV Law and Policy (Updated May 2015). The manual includes the complete text of every U.S. state and territory’s HIV criminal law, with examples of prosecutions under those laws.
 
 
 
 
Routes, Risks And Realities of HIV Transmission and Care: Current Scientific Knowledge and Medical TreatmentThe Center for HIV Law and Policy (August 2015)
 
Almost every type of HIV-related discrimination and associated stigma—from denials of medical treatment or admission to schools and camps to unwarranted felony prosecutions for HIV “exposure”—is rooted in gross misperceptions about the actual routes, risks and current realities of HIV transmission and treatment. Extraordinary progress in treatment options has transformed what it means to live with HIV, yet public understanding of HIV seems largely stuck in the 1980’s, before HIV was a treatable, chronic disease.
 
This fact sheet was created as part of a larger effort to arm advocates and policy makers with concise, authoritative information that addresses the major areas of ignorance with facts about what is currently well-known about how HIV is (and is not) transmitted, and how modern HIV care has transformed the health and longevity of people living with HIV while reducing transmission to others.
 
The contributors to and reviewers of the fact sheet are Dr. David Wohl, Associate Professor/Site Leader at Univ. North Carolina AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Chapel Hill, Director of the North Carolina AIDS Education and Training Center, and Co-Director of HIV Services for the N.C. Department of Public Safety; Dr. Wendy Armstrong, Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory Univ. School of Medicine, and Medical Director, Ponce de Leon Clinic/Grady Health System; and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, one of the earliest researchers and most respected clinicians in the field of HIV.
 
 
Guiding Principles for Eliminating Disease-specific Criminal Laws, The Steering Committee of the Positive Justice Project (2015)
 
After much discussion, the PJP Steering Committee agreed on the following set of principles to guide the modernization of state HIV criminal law modernization regardless of the particular jurisdiction.  They have proven to be a useful tool to guide discussions and build consensus on specific state law proposals for reform. Your feedback, comments, suggestions on these Principles are encouraged. Some advocates have tailored the principles for their particular group by adding an additional principles on the need to recognize racial and gender bias in the criminal law.
 
Please send your feedback or suggestions to Senior Community Outreach Specialist Lauren Fanning, at LFanning@hivlawandpolicy.org
 
The Guiding Principles state:
  1. The Positive Justice Project is dedicated to eliminating disease-specific criminal laws that base liability on an individual’s health status rather than on the intent to harm another individual. We oppose the use of felony laws, and the associated lengthy terms of incarceration that treat health status as evidence of wrongful intent, and transmission of a treatable illness as equivalent to manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and other forms of assaults that pose immediate, life-threatening harm to another.
  2. The Steering Committee of the Positive Justice Project supports collaboration among all stake holders and a broad range of allies to end the use of criminal laws that target people for arrest and punishment on the basis of a diagnosis of HIV or other disease.
  3. Experience strongly suggests that modernizing current HIV and disease-specific criminal laws is preferable to pushing for outright repeal:
    1. Incorporating principles of intent and proportional punishment to modernize existing criminal laws is the most promising way to ensure fair treatment of all people with misunderstood infectious diseases; and
    2. Modernization reduces the risk that repeal or lack of an HIV-specific criminal statute will result in prosecution of people living with HIV under traditional assault and battery laws, as has happened in some states.
  4. We embrace the following unifying principles for modernizing criminal law as it affects HIV and other diseases:
    1. No specific disease or condition should be the focus of a criminal law or sentence enhancement;
    2. Prosecution must prove specific intent to harm coupled with conduct that is reasonably likely to accomplish the intended harm;
    3. Evidence that a defendant took or tried to take steps to reduce the risk of transmission demonstrates lack of an intent to harm;
    4. Because of the difficulty of fairly proving or defending against a charge of specific intent to transmit disease when airborne or casually transmitted diseases are involved, diseases that can be passed from person to person in the course of everyday contact should not as a matter of law or policy form the basis of a criminal prosecution or penalty enhancement;
    5. Any penalty must be proportionate to the harm and prioritize alternatives to incarceration, and classification as a sex offender should never result;
    6. A misdemeanor rather than a felony law carries sufficiently serious consequences for intentional transmission of a treatable infectious disease; and
    7. Proposals to modernize laws should not create more serious crimes related to exposure to or transmission of a specific disease or significantly increase the scope of penalties for any individual on the basis of a particular health condition or disease.

 


 

Accurate Information = Power! 

For free access to legal, scientific and policy resources to increase your advocacy power, search the HIV Policy Resource Bank, an annotated collection of fact sheets, court cases, scientific research reports, legal and medical guides, pleadings and briefs, policy analyses and recommendations, and other materials to inform and boost your work.

 

Calling All True Believers! Take Action!