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Intentional Exposure to HIV – Defense Lawyers

Defending Clients Facing HIV Exposure Charges

In the 1980s and 1990s, fear surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic led many states to enact laws criminalizing potential exposure to the virus. Today, 33 states still have HIV-specific statutes that can punish actions like non-disclosure of positive status before sexual contact.

While these laws were created to protect public health, many are now outdated and do not reflect current medical science. Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to near zero. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) also provides a high level of protection against contracting HIV.

Defense attorneys are increasingly challenging these laws as unconstitutional and advocating for reform. Representing an individual charged under HIV criminalization statutes requires understanding the science, assessing potential penalties, and crafting an effective defense.

HIV Transmission Risks

Laws criminalizing actions like spitting or biting were based on initial misconceptions about HIV transmission. In truth, HIV is only transmitted through specific bodily fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

Even exposure to these fluids does not guarantee contraction. The highest risks come from unprotected anal or vaginal sex, sharing needles, and vertical transmission during pregnancy. Lower risk activities like oral sex or biting pose negligible threats.

HIV virus

Modern medications can reduce transmission risks even further. ART suppresses viral loads to undetectable levels in blood and genital fluids for most patients. Those with sustained undetectable viral loads have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV sexually.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
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Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
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Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
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Bee L
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divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

State Laws and Penalties

Laws criminalizing HIV exposure vary widely but generally focus on failure to disclose positive status. Possible charges include:

  • Criminal transmission of HIV
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Attempted murder
  • Assault or aggravated assault

Depending on the state, defendants may face years in prison, large fines, probation, and sex offender registration. Some states classify nondisclosure or exposure as a misdemeanor, while others prosecute it as a felony.

Only a few states limit charges to cases involving intentional transmission. Failing to disclose is illegal regardless of actual transmission, consent, viral load, or use of protection in most jurisdictions.

Possible Defenses

Skilled criminal defense lawyers can often get charges reduced or dismissed by challenging:

  • Constitutionality – Many laws are vague, overly broad, or violate privacy rights.
  • Intent – Prosecutors may struggle to prove intent to inflict harm.
  • Transmission – No transmission removes basis for serious charges like attempted murder.
  • Disclosure – Defendant may argue disclosure occurred or consent was given.
  • Medical evidence – Undetectable viral load and/or PrEP use negate likelihood of harm.

Defense lawyer in courtroom

Presenting expert testimony on HIV transmission can undermine claims of reckless or negligent endangerment. Procedural errors by police or prosecutors may also provide grounds for dismissal.

Avoiding Conviction

If charges cannot be dropped pre-trial, the focus shifts to avoiding conviction and minimizing penalties. Strategies may include:

  • Seeking a bench trial rather than a jury trial
  • Suppressing prejudicial evidence
  • Excluding improper expert testimony
  • Raising reasonable doubt on intent and likelihood of transmission
  • Presenting mitigating factors to reduce severity of sentence
  • Leveraging prosecutorial discretion to secure a plea deal

Thorough investigation and preparation can uncover facts and witnesses that support acquittal or leniency.

Reform Advocacy

In addition to defending individual clients, many lawyers advocate for updating or eliminating outdated HIV criminal laws through:

  • Legislative reform
  • Litigation strategies
  • Law enforcement education
  • Community organizing
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