Apr 262009
Authors: Kathleen Harward

Q: I have a sexually transmitted disease. What legal trouble can I get into if I infect a sex partner?

A: You can be charged with a crime for exposing or infecting another person with an STD. You can also be sued in civil court for that person’s medical bills, emotional distress and future suffering.

Colorado’s criminal statute is found at 25-4-401: “It is unlawful for any person who has knowledge or reasonable grounds to suspect that he is infected with a venereal disease to willfully expose to or infect another with such a disease or to knowingly perform an act which exposes to or infects another person with a venereal disease.” The offense is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.

In civil court, you could be sued on a variety of legal grounds, including battery, negligence and fraud, and could end up with a money judgment against you for thousands of dollars.

In an earlier column, I pointed out how tricky it can be to get valid consent from your partner to have sex.

For example, under the law, an intoxicated partner does not have legal capacity to consent, and there is risk of being accused of sexual assault in such a situation. If you have an STD, you have double trouble getting valid consent.

Tell your partner what disease you have, and let him or her decide whether to take on the risk of sex.

Even though Colorado’s criminal statute does not explicitly exempt you from prosecution when the infected person consented to the risk, the consent will go a long way in protecting you from criminal and civil consequences.

Potential partners, when someone discloses an STD to you, don’t broadcast the news.

Consider the courage it takes to live with an incurable contagious disease and to have to disclose the fact and fear rejection every time there is the possibility of an intimate relationship.

Kathleen Harward is the director of Student Legal Services. SLS’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Send your burning legal questions to kathleen.harward@colostate.edu. Other letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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