People v. Allen - Amicus Brief, Macomb County Circuit Court, Lambda Legal, Community AIDS Resource and Education Services, Michigan Positive Action Coalition and Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc.

Pleadings and Briefs

On April 19, 2010, Lambda Legal and several partners submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Allen, an HIV-positive man in Michigan charged with bioterrorism after biting his neighbor. On June 3, 2010 the court dismissed the charges of bioterrorism because there was no evidence of blood involvement nor did the court find that Allen meant to transmit HIV to his neighbor. (The court decision can be found here). However, the court failed to overturn an earlier Michigan Court of Appeals decision (can be found here) that determined HIV to be a "harmful biological substance" for the purposes of Michigan's bioterrorism act.

In it's brief Lambda Legal argued that these types of prosecutions would create a terrorist out of any HIV-positive citizen and foster ignorance concerning how HIV is spread, furthering public misunderstanding and ungrounded fears concerning the virus. Specifically, Lambda Legal noted that allowing a prosecution under Michigan's bioterrorism law would render the saliva, mouth, or teeth of an HIV-positive person "harmful biological devices," which would simultaneously promote scientifically inaccurate understandings of HIV and worsen the pervasive stigma attached to the virus.

The case of Allen is a clear example of how the misuse of the criminal justice system can further discrimination towards individuals living with HIV. Even in states without specific statutes concerning HIV transmission, citizens with HIV continue to be prosecuted for HIV exposure regardless of whether HIV is actually transmitted, contact between sexual partners is consensual, or whether any intent to transmit HIV exists. These prosecutions continue to send the harmful message that one's HIV positive status can be criminalized.