Minnesota Supreme Court Refuses to Prosecute HIV-Positive Man; Upholds Lower Court Ruling Barring Prosecution for Consensual Sex
St. Paul, MN – The Supreme Court of Minnesota today upheld a lower court's ruling that an HIV-positive man cannot be held criminally responsible for engaging in consensual sex after disclosing his HIV-status to his partner. The court's decision affirms that the government must respect the personal and private decisions of consenting adults regarding sexual intimacy and procreation.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Minnesota filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
"The court's decision rightly protects Minnesotans from unconstitutional intrusions into their private conduct," said Terri Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota. "Our criminal laws should not be used to target the private actions of consenting adults."
In 2009, Daniel James Rick, who is HIV positive, had a sexual relationship with another man, D.B., whose HIV status at the time was unknown. They mutually agreed to not use condoms. After the relationship ended, the state prosecuted Rick under Minnesota's "knowing transfer of a communicable disease" statute. At trial, the jury found that Rick had disclosed his HIV status but convicted him under an interpretation of the law that would make it a crime for individuals with HIV to have sex even after disclosing their status to their partner.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in 2012. The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling today.
"It is deeply concerning that after decades of HIV/AIDS awareness, prosecutors are targeting even private consensual conduct in cases where parties disclose their HIV status," said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project. "Today's decision marks an important step in protecting HIV-positive Minnesotans from misapplication of the criminal law."