State of Minnesota v. Rick, 821 N.W.2d 610 (Minn. 2013)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

In this decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld an appeals court decision overturning an HIV positive man's conviction for engaging in consensual sexual activity, which prosecutors claimed was "attempted first-degree assault by communicable disease" under a state criminal law, Minnesota Stat. § 609.2241(2).

Daniel Rick argued that the subsection of the state's criminal law prohibiting the "transfer of bodily fluids" of people living with HIV and other communicable diseases, does not apply to sexual contact. The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Rick and the state appeals court, concluding that that § 609.2241(2) only applies to the donation or exchange for value of blood, sperm, organs, or tissues.

In 2009, Mr. Rick met D.B. through a social "hook-up" website. Mr. Rick had repeated unprotected anal sex with D.B., who subsequently tested positive for HIV. Although D.B. claimed that Rick never disclosed his HIV status, Mr. Rick testified that he did, in fact, disclose his status and believed that D.B. likely also was positive due to D.B.'s prior unprotected sex with other individuals. A jury already had found Rick not guilty under the part of the law that has to do with "sexual penetration" without disclosure.

The Minnesota Supreme Court engaged in a two-part analysis to determine whether subsection 2 of the Minnesota communicable disease statute – the part of the state law which the jury relied on to find Rick guilty – applied to sexual conduct. After concluding that this provision did not clearly cover sex, the Court decided that the unacceptable lack of clarity could be resolved by interpreting the provision to apply only to "transfer" of a communicable disease through the donation or sale of blood, sperm, organs, or tissues for medical purposes.

The Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of § 609.2241(2) if applied to sexual conduct, the issue raised in the ACLU and Lambda Legal amicus brief on which The Center for HIV Law and Policy and other organizations appeared.

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