In 2017, an Ohio woman sued her ex-boyfriend for giving her herpes, a sexually-transmitted disease (STD). In her lawsuit, she claimed that he knew that he had the disease, but failed to disclose that to her before they had sex. Now she has an STD for the rest of her life and wants him to be held accountable.
It’s bad enough that this guy was sued for giving his ex herpes. If he lost, he could be on the hook for a lot of money. Is it also something he could be arrested for doing? Under Ohio law, it’s quite possible.
It’s Illegal to Knowingly Try to Harm Another Person
When adults engage in consensual sex, it’s rarely the government’s concern. However, things can get complicated when one of those consenting adults fails to tell the other that they have a disease that could be transmitted when they have sex. In Ohio, this could be considered a crime under the state’s assault laws.
Assault, as defined under Ohio Rev. Code Section 2903.13, occurs when a person “knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical harm to another.”
Could this apply to the act of having unprotected sex when you have herpes or another STD? Yes. However, you would have to:
- Know that you have a sexually-transmitted disease, and
- Engage in sex without warning or telling your partner.
Does “knowingly” mean that you intentionally tried to give someone else herpes? Not necessarily. Knowingly means that you knew that you could transmit the disease and cause harm, but had sex without disclosing that risk, anyway.
Does it matter whether or not your partner contracts an STD after you have sex? No. Assault involves causing physical harm or attempting to cause physical harm. The act of having unprotected sex and failing to disclose the possibility of transmitting an STD could be enough to be considered an attempt to cause physical harm.
What’s the Punishment For Giving Someone Else Herpes?
Assault, without any aggravating factors, is typically a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio. If convicted, you could potentially face up to six months in jail and be required to pay up to $1,000 in fines.
You could also face civil consequences and be named in a personal injury lawsuit for giving someone herpes.
Ohio Recognizes the Danger in Not Disclosing STDs
While it might be a misdemeanor to have sex without disclosing that you have herpes or chlamydia, the stakes are a lot higher if you have a more serious disease, like HIV. In fact, Ohio has laws that specifically target this type of behavior.
Under Ohio state law, it is a felony to have sex with another person if:
- You know that you have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and
- Engage in sexual conduct with another person without disclosing that fact.
It can also be a crime to have sex with any person under the 18 or who is not mentally capable of understanding the risk of engaging in sexual conduct with someone who has HIV.
Is sexual conduct more than sexual intercourse? It can be. In Ohio, sexual conduct means “any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.”
Having Sex Without Disclosing that You Have HIV is a Felony
If you have sex without telling your partner that you have HIV, you could potentially face charges for aggravated assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, or even attempted murder. These are all felony offenses. If convicted, you can face multiple years behind bars and be required to pay substantial fines.
Aggravated Assault and Assault With a Deadly Weapon: Can be charged as a fourth-degree felony (six to 18 months in prison) or third-degree felony (nine months to five years in prison).
Attempted Murder: Can be charged as a first-degree felony, which carries a sentence of between three and 11 years in prison.
How Can I Defend Myself If I’m Arrested For Giving Someone an STD?
The state has to prove that you’re guilty of a crime. You have the right to defend yourself. A strong defense will make the prosecutor’s job much more difficult. Defenses that might be appropriate include:
- You didn’t know that you had an STD
- You disclosed the fact that you had an STD to your partner
- You didn’t engage in any sexual conduct
- You’ve been falsely accused.
You can also argue to have evidence in your case excluded if your rights have been violated. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you get the best result.