Can I Be Arrested For Giving Someone an STD?

California recently reported that STDs are on the rise in the state. In fact, there has been a 45 percent increase in reported STD cases over the past five years. In 2017, there were more than 300,000 reported cases involving syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. While many STDs are treatable, some can cause serious side effects. Some STDs, including syphilis, have even been known to cause birth defects and death in newborns.

Those are some serious and life-changing consequences of sexual activity. If you’ve recently given someone an STD in San Diego, you may be wondering if you could face criminal charges for your actions. Our San Diego criminal defense attorneys discuss the potential legal consequences of giving another person an STD.

Willfully Transmitting an STD

Sexually-transmitted diseases, or STDs, are defined to include “various diseases or infections” that are passed from one person to another during sexual activity. In California, STDs may be categorized as “infectious or communicable” diseases. This is important because it can be against the law to willfully transmit an infectious or communicable disease to another person.

Specifically, you can face criminal charges for giving another person an infectious or communicable disease under California Health and Safety Code Section 120290 if you:

  1. Know that you are afflicted with an infectious or communicable disease;
  2. Act with the specific intent of transmitting that disease to another person;
  3. Engage in conduct that is likely to transmit the disease; and
  4. You successfully transmit the disease to a third person.

You can also be guilty of willfully transmitting an infectious or communicable disease if you intentionally cause another person to pass on a disease.

In simpler terms, you could face criminal charges for giving another person an STD if you knowingly and willfully transmit the disease to them (or cause it to be transmitted to them).

What is an Infectious or Communicable Disease?

Do all STDs qualify as “infectious or communicable” diseases for the purposes of California law? No. California defines infectious or communicable disease to mean “a disease that spreads from person to person, directly or indirectly, that has significant public health implications.”

So, you can only face criminal charges for passing on an STD if that STD poses “significant public health implications.” While all STDs can pose a serious threat to an individual’s health if left untreated, many are curable and/or pose little threat to the public health, at-large.

For the purposes of California HSC Section 120290, only the most serious and debilitating STDs will trigger criminal liability. STDs that are incurable or pose a serious threat to public health, such as HIV, HPV, herpes, and syphilis, may qualify.

How Can You Defend Giving Someone an STD?

In most cases, you’re not going to be sent to jail for giving someone an STD. California law requires that you:

  1. Know you have an STD
  2. Intend to transmit the disease
  3. Engage in behavior that is “likely” to result in passing the STD to another person; and
  4. Are successful.

If you’ve been accused of willfully transmitting an STD, the best defenses address these specific requirements of the crime.

You Didn’t Know You Had an STD

You can’t be convicted of knowingly and willfully transmitting a disease if you didn’t know you were afflicted. Evidence that can support this defense includes a lack of symptoms and limited sexual activity.

You Didn’t Intend to Transmit the Disease

Even you did know you had an STD, you must still have intended to pass it along to another person. The best way to show that you did not have this intent is by pointing to steps taken to reduce the likelihood of transmission. For example, explaining that you wore a condom or used other protective measures will be helpful in showing you lacked the necessary intent to transmit the disease.

Your Behavior Wasn’t Likely to Transmit an STD

You have to engage in “conduct that poses a substantial risk of transmission” in order to be guilty of willfully passing on an STD. This basically means that you have to engage in some high-risk sexual activity absent any protective measures.

For example, unprotected sexual intercourse or oral sex would likely qualify as conduct that “poses a substantial risk” of passing on an STD. Behavior that poses a low risk, like heavy petting or touching, may not rise to the level necessary for criminal liability.

No STD Was Actually Transmitted

Another person actually has to contract an infectious and/or communicable disease in order for you to face criminal charges. You can argue that (a) no STD was transmitted or (b) the STD is not serious enough to pose a risk to the public health.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges?

Willfully giving another person an infectious or communicable STD is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a fine of $1,000, and/or probation. If you’ve been accused of giving another person a dangerous STD, you need the help of an experienced San Diego sex crime lawyer.

Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC for immediate legal assistance. We offer an initial case evaluation, so do not hesitate to contact us today.

Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC
1230 Columbia Street Suite 565
San Diego, CA 92101


Sex Crimes