Jailed for Being HIV Positive

By David Plunkett

This essay is an excerpt from the LGBT/HIV criminal justice report, A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV.

On September 18, 2006, I was jailed and eventually sentenced to a ten-year state prison term for aggravated assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

According to the county Supreme Court the deadly weapon was my “HIV infected saliva”.  After a six-year fight through the court system the charge was vacated by the New York State Court of Appeals, and I was released.

After my arrest I lost many things I had worked hard for: I lost my business, my home, and most importantly my reputation. I have had to start my life all over, and finding employment has been impossible with the nature of the alleged crime.  This has followed me right up to today: I have found myself having to explain my criminal history over and over again, from applying for housing to registering for classes at my local college.

I remain on parole until this coming September, this has created an even bigger burden finding employment - I am not allowed to leave my small county without my parole officer’s permission, I cannot drive, and I am under a 9:00 pm curfew.

I lost my private insurance while incarcerated.  This has forced me to rely on Medicare and Medicaid - finding physicians now that can care for my health needs and obtain the medications I need is a continuing battle.

All these things are a consequence of being charged with an HIV related crime. At 43 years old I never imagined how different my life would be because of my arrest and incarceration. I also never realized the stigma attached to those with HIV and especially those who also have a criminal record. From then until now I should have been able to focus on my health and career, not battling a system that incarcerates those who live with a chronic illness, and remain uninformed about the nature and transmission of the HIV virus.

In June 2012, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed Mr. Plunkett's aggravated assault conviction and remitted his case back to the Herkimer County Court for resentencing.