Transmitting an STD or STI is not just a health matter in Texas, it can also be a crime — especially if it is incurable or life-threatening. For example, a number of people have been prosecuted — and received hefty prison terms — for intentionally or recklessly infecting someone with HIV/AIDS.
What charges can stem from transmitting an STD?
The most common charge for intentionally exposing someone to a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) or Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is assault. In Texas, a person commits assault if they cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury to another.
If the transmitted disease is HIV/AIDs, the charge could be upgraded to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. According to the Texas Penal Code 22.02, a deadly weapon is anything that can be used to cause death or serious bodily injury. There have been numerous prosecutions in which body fluids such as blood, saliva, and semen have been alleged as deadly weapons.
Attempted murder is also a possible charge if someone knowingly exposes another person to a deadly disease in order to infect them.
Additionally, is not uncommon for child sex crimes to be uncovered through sexually transmitted diseases. There are dozens of cases where someone was arrested and accused of sexual assault of a child after the child was found to have contracted an STD or STI.
What is the potential punishment for transmitting an STD?
Assault with bodily injury is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year and jail and a $4000 fine.
Aggravated assault that causes serious bodily injury, or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that causes serious bodily injury to a family member or with whom the offender has dated or had an intimate relationship is a first-degree felony punishable up to life in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Attempted murder is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
What are some examples of people who have been prosecuted for exposing or infecting someone with an STD?
• In a highly publicized trial in 2009 in Collin County, Philippe Padieu was convicted of aggravated assault with adeadly weapon and sentenced to 45 years in prison for knowingly exposing multiple women to HIV. It was one of the first HIV-aggravated assault cases in Texas.
• In 2010, a 26-year-old Copperas Cove man was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 15 years in prison for having unprotected sex with a 16-year-old boy without disclosing his HIV-positive status.
• In 2013, a Midland man was sentenced to 120 years in prison – two consecutive 60-year sentences – for knowingly transmitting the HIV virus to four women.
• In 2018, a married man was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 30 years in prison in Houston for knowingly infecting his girlfriend with HIV. The victim told investigators she requested they both take tests for STDs and, after her test came back negative, the defendant told her his test was also negative when, in fact, he was diagnosed with HIV years earlier.
Is there a legal obligation to disclose an STD or STI to a potential partner?
There isn’t a law in Texas that makes it illegal for you to not tell a partner you have an STD or STI. However, it is illegal to knowingly or recklessly transmit an STD. As mentioned, if you don’t tell a partner about your STD and they contract the disease, you could face criminal charges.
Are there any defenses to charges that stem from infecting someone with an STD?
Yes, if you did not know that you were infected at the time the sexual activity took place, you have a valid defense. Likewise, if you told your partner that you were infected and he or she agreed to sexual contact anyway, that case is also defendable.
If you are under investigation or have been arrested due to transmitting an STD in Texas, contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. We can help.