Almost 20,000 Ohioans are diagnosed with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. But the actual number of HIV-positive individuals is significantly higher since many people are undiagnosed. Every year, the virus takes around 300 lives in the state, and approximately 1,000 more are infected each. In some instances, these additional infections are the subject of criminal HIV-related charges.
Ohio has several statutes that provide criminal penalties for HIV-positive people who knowingly risk spreading the virus to others. From donating infected fluids to purposefully transmitting the disease to others, these statutes cover a wide range of conduct. The penalties are harsh. In one notorious case, an HIV-positive wrestler from Ohio who called himself the “Gangsta of Love” was sentenced to 32 years in prison after potentially infecting a dozen unsuspecting individuals.
It’s Illegal to Sell or Donate HIV-Positive Blood
Section 2927.13 of the Ohio Code states that is illegal for someone with knowledge that he or she is HIV positive to knowingly sell or donate blood, plasma, or blood product that is likely destined to be used in a transfusion to another individual. This offense is a fourth-degree felony, which carries a 6 to 12-month sentence and a possible $5,000 fine.
Infecting Others With HIV May Be Considered Felonious Assault
The crime of felonious assault is explained in section 2903.11 of the Ohio Code. It prohibits people who know they are HIV-positive from doing any of the following:
- Engaging in sexual conduct with another person without disclosing their positive HIV status
- Engaging in sexual conduct with another person who lacks the mental capacity to appreciate the significance of a positive HIV status
- Engaging in sexual conduct with any person under 18 years old who is not a spouse.
This offense is a felony of the second degree—unless perpetrated against a peace officer, in which case it’s a first-degree felony. In Ohio, second-degree felonies involve 2 to 8-year prison sentences and possible fines that can reach $15,000. A first-degree felony conviction could cost you $20,000 in fines and 3 to 11 years in prison.
Soliciting Sex for Hire While HIV Positive Is a Serious Crime
According to section 2907.24 of the Ohio Code, it’s a crime for any person to solicit another person for sexual activity in exchange for money or some other thing of value. Depending on the age of the person being solicited, the prosecutor may bring a range of felony charges.
But when the person soliciting knows he or she is HIV positive, the offense automatically becomes a third-degree felony, involving a 9-month to 5-year prison sentence and fines as high as $10,000. If the offense was committed before July 1, 1996, it’s a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 2 to 8 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
HIV Positive People Charged With Prostitution May Face Stiffer Penalties
Ohio Code section 2907.25 prohibits any person from engaging in prostitution. The penalty for violating this section is a third-degree misdemeanor. But when a person who knows he or she is HIV positive violates this section, the offense is a third-degree felony involving a 9-month to 5-year jail sentence and fines of up to $10,000. When the offense occurred before July 1 1996, the offense is a second-degree felony, with a maximum sentence of 8 years in jail and a $15,000 fine.
What is Harassment with a Bodily Substance?
Ohio Code section 2921.38 mostly applies to people under detention, who are prohibited from using their bodily fluids to harass or annoy fellow inmates and law enforcement officers. But according to one provision of this statute, all people (whether in detention or not) with knowledge of their positive HIV status are prohibited from causing or attempting to cause another person to come into contact with their blood, semen, urine, feces, or other bodily substance with the intent to annoy, harass, threaten or alarm.
When perpetrated by people who are aware of their HIV-positive status, harassment with a bodily substance becomes a third-degree felony, punishable by a 9-month to 5-year prison sentence and a possible fine reaching $10,000.
How Can a Columbus Defense Attorney Help?
A prosecutor can successfully convict you of one of the above crimes only if there is proof that you had knowledge of your HIV positive status. For some of the offenses, such harassment with a bodily substance, the prosecutor must also prove your malicious intent. In all criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer’s job is to dismantle the prosecutor’s arguments or offer alternative evidence that sheds doubt on the state’s arguments.
By hiring a skilled and experienced Columbus criminal defense lawyer, you will also ensure that your rights are given due respect as you move through the criminal justice system. You have inalienable constitutional rights, but sometimes you and your lawyer will need to fight to assert them.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we will defend your rights and pursue every possible defense available to you. If you’re an HIV-positive person facing assault, prostitution, solicitation, or harassment charges, we can help.
Call us today at (614) 500-3836for a free and confidential consultation of your case.