State v. Rick, 821 N.W.2d 610 (2012)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

Rick, an HIV-positive man, successfully challenged his conviction under subsection 2 of Minnesota Statute Sec.609.2241, which prohibits the "transfer of bodily fluids" of those with HIV and other contagious diseases, on the grounds that that section of the law applies to medical procedures, not sex. Rick had been charged under both subdivision 2 and another section of the law, which prohibits sexual penetration without prior disclosure of one's disease status to a partner. The jury did not believe the prosecution's evidence that disclosure had not occurred and voted to acquit on the first charge, but found Rick guilty under subsection 2 of the law prohibiting transfer of bodily fluids regardless of disclosure.

Rick had repeated unprotected receptive and insertive anal sex in May 2009 with D.B., who subsequently tested positive for HIV. Although D.B. claimed that Rick never disclosed he is HIV positive, 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 HIV-positive individuals.

The appeals court concluded that section 2 of the law prohiting transfer of fluids can be interpreted in more than one way; and that Rick's argument that it didn't apply to sex was reasonable since section 2's failure to mention vaginal fluids would mean, somewhat irrationally, that only men could be convicted under this section. The court rejected the state's public health policy argument for interpreting the statute to apply broadly to any unprotected sex in order to protect public health because neither the legislative history nor reasonable interpretations off other portions of the statute supported that conclusion.

Consequently, under Minnesota's law, even when transmission may have occurred, an individual with HIV cannot be imprisoned for unprotected sex in the absence of proof that disclosure did not occur.