Published March, 2010

Michigan v. D.A., Amicus Brief, Michigan Circuit Court, The American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan (2010)

The ACLU of Michigan argues in its amicus brief that a Michigan bioterrorism statute should not be applied to an HIV-positive individual who allegedly bit another individual while the two were fighting. The case is the first time a bioterrorism statute has been used to prosecute a person living with HIV. The defendant, D.A., alleges that his neighbor harassed and assaulted him because of D.A.'s sexual orientation. However D.A. was charged with assault for his role in the altercation. Alleging that D.A. bit his neighbor, the prosecutor also relied on D.A.'s HIV status to charge him under an anti-terrorism statute that outlaws "the manufacture, delivery, possession, transport, place, use, or release of a harmful biological substance or device." The ACLU argues that the bioterrorism charge should be dismissed because (1) the statute was never meant to apply to an HIV-positive individual alleged to have bitten another individual and (2) it is medically impossible to transmit HIV through biting where, as in this case, the biter was not bleeding. The brief outlines the medical evidence documenting that HIV is not transmitted through saliva; and criminal prosecutions of HIV exposure alleged to occur through spitting and biting perpetuate myths about HIV transmission and promote stigma against HIV-positive individuals.