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STDs: Is hiding the fact that you have one illegal?

STDs: Is hiding the fact that you have one illegal?

By Carolyn Hauck on May 14, 2015

It’s a difficult conversation to have at the beginning of any intimate relationship, but talking openly about your sexual health is not only important for personal and public health reasons, and necessary for building trust with a new partner, but that conversation can have legal implications as well. If you know that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), choosing not to disclose that information with a sexual partner could land you in legal trouble.

The laws vary by state and county, but in the U.S., it is generally illegal to hide the fact that you have an STD from a sexual partner. If you are the person affected by another’s deceit about an STD, according to a criminal defense attorney on JustAnswer you have a couple of different legal options: “The first would be to go to the police and file a report and the police will investigate and determine if there is enough evidence to charge the person. If so, they can be prosecuted. The other option is a civil lawsuit, going after the person for monetary damages, for the cost and treatment to rid the STD and any other harm caused by it. If you want criminal charges filed, those would have to be done by the State.”

But as Lawrence N. Rogak, another attorney on JustAnswer cautions, lawsuits can sometimes be tricky, especially because many STDs are asymptomatic; “A lawsuit brought over STD infection is basically a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence. The plaintiff is alleging that they were injured (in this case, infected) because the other person was careless or reckless. Bringing a lawsuit is one thing: winning is another. In many cases it is difficult to prove that the other person knew they had a sexually transmitted disease, as these diseases often have no symptoms. The defendant may even claim that the plaintiff was careless as well.”

As Mr., Rogak outlines, bringing a personal injury lawsuit against someone who knowingly has an STD and doesn’t disclose the information is usually based on negligence, which means that the plaintiff “owes a duty” to the defendant, or rather the person with the STD is obligated to let a sexual partner know. Sometimes the basis for a lawsuit can be on battery, in which there was harmful, intentional transmission of the disease, even if the intercourse was consensual. Although more times than not these types of lawsuits are based on negligence.

Bottom line: Have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your sexual health. It’s the right thing to do and it’s also the law.

Although non-disclosure of an STD is illegal, laws do vary by state and even county. If you need legal information regarding STD transmission, you can discreetly ask a personal injury lawyer on JustAnswer about your specific circumstances.