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Rethinking HIV-Exposure Crimes

Margo Kaplan

Rutgers Law School


Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, 2012
Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 235

This Article challenges the current legislative and scholarly approaches to HIV-exposure crimes and proposes an alternative framework to address their flaws. Twenty-four states criminalize consensual sexual activities of people with HIV. Current statutes and the scholarship that supports them focus on HIV-positive status, sexual activity and knowledge of HIV-positive status as proxies for risk, mental state, and consent to risk. As a result, they are dramatically over- and under-inclusive and stigmatize individuals living with HIV. Criminalization should be limited to circumstances in which a defendant exposed her partner to a substantial degree of unassumed risk and did so with a culpable mental state as to transmission. This approach requires a fact-finder to consider all evidence relevant to the risk of transmission and the victim’s understanding of that risk, a modest requirement that would nonetheless invert outcomes in numerous prosecutions. The Article contextualizes these arguments within the larger debate on the use of rules and standards in the criminal law, and explores the implications of its approach for both HIV-exposure criminalization and for any offense drafted in response to an emerging threat.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 63

Keywords: Criminal Law, HIV, Consent, Risk

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Date posted: April 17, 2011 ; Last revised: August 21, 2011

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Margo, Rethinking HIV-Exposure Crimes (2011). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, 2012 ; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 235. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1808034

Contact Information

Margo Kaplan (Contact Author)
Rutgers Law School ( email )
United States
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