GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A judge in Michigan last week has consented to a request from prosecutors to add two additional charges to a man there facing a four-year felony charge for failing to disclose his HIV status to a sexual partner last summer, Fox 17, a regional Fox affiliate, reported.
Despite defense attorney Christine Yared’s argument that charges against her client Jeremy Merithew should be dismissed because the Michigan law that prohibits a person from not telling sexual partners about their HIV status is a violation of free speech, a Kent County Court disagreed and denied the motion to dismiss. The new charges — sexual penetration with an uninformed partner and use of a computer to commit a crime — were added, Fox 17 reported.
Yared also argued that the law is outdated and not relevant by today’s standards.
“There isn’t the risk of transmission that existed in the ‘80s when that law was passed or even in the ‘90s when our Michigan courts looked at the law,” Fox quoted her as stating. “So the law is unconstitutional. It’s not keeping up with the reality of what really happens.”
Merithew found the partner he’s accused of failing to disclose to on Adam4Adam.com, Fox reported. He was put back in jail after his bond was raised to $300,000. A trial is set for May.
In related news, a Des Moines lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would reduce penalties for HIV-positive people who have sex without disclosing their status, the AP reports.
Des Moines Democratic Sen. Matt McCoy said the law should be changed to focus on people who purposefully try to infect others. Under the current Iowa law, HIV-positive people who have sex without disclosing their status can face up to 25 years in prison if convicted whether someone else was infected or not.
“This is truly a Draconian punishment,” McCoy, who’s gay, said. “Being diagnosed with HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was.”
McCoy wants to change the law so someone convicted of intentional or attempted transmission of the virus could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and face a $750 to $7,500 fine. That would put HIV in the same criminal category as transmitting any other communicable disease, such as Hepatitis C, the AP reported.
McCoy also wants to end a requirement that people convicted must be placed on a sex offender registry for life, the report said.
The proposed changes to the law would take into account whether an HIV-positive person took steps to prevent transmission of the disease, such as using a condom and taking medication that makes it less likely that a sexual partner would be infected.
Since the Legislature approved the Iowa law, 25 people have been convicted, though only two of those infected partners with HIV, the AP reported. Of those 25, 12 people remain in prison, four are on parole, one is on probation and a trial for one person is pending.