Can You go to Jail for Giving Someone Herpes in Ohio?

There have been many lawsuits filed across the United States alleging a person exposed another person to a sexually-transmitted disease. A high-profile lawsuit a few years ago involved Usher as a defendant. In 2017, a Cleveland, Ohio woman sued a former ex-boyfriend alleging that he failed to inform her that he had herpes.

The truth is that you can face criminal charges if you give someone herpes. You can also face civil liability for exposing partners to sexually-transmitted diseases like herpes. The criminal charges and circumstances govern whether you could go to jail for giving someone herpes.

Transmitting a Sexually Transmitted Disease

A sexually transmitted disease or STD is an infection or disease that is passed between people through sexual contact. There are more than 20 different types of known STDs. Some of the more common types of STDs include herpes, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.

Using latex condoms can reduce the risk of spreading STDs. However, protected sex does not always prevent STDs. Most STDs can be treated with antibiotics, but there could be long-lasting damage and consequences for some individuals exposed to an STD.

It is Possible to be Arrested in Ohio for Giving Someone Herpes

Under Ohio assault laws, knowingly causing another person harm or attempting to cause another person physical harm is illegal. Therefore, having sex with someone when you know you have herpes could result in an assault charge.

In Ohio, simple assault is a first-degree misdemeanor. If the court finds you guilty of assault, you could face up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail. If there are aggravating factors, the punishment could be more severe.

Therefore, you could go to jail for giving someone herpes in Ohio if your case meets the legal elements of an assault charge. Additionally, you could face civil penalties if the person sues you for damages related to contracting herpes.

Defenses to Assault Charges Involving Sexually Transmitted Diseases

If you are arrested on assault charges related to giving someone herpes or another STD, the state must prove the legal elements of assault to obtain a guilty verdict. In other words, the state must prove that you:

  • Knew that you had herpes or another STD; and,
  • You had sexual contact with another person without informing that person that you had herpes or another STD.

The state does not need to prove that you intentionally tried to give someone herpes. It is sufficient for the state to prove that you “knowingly” had sexual contact with another person while you had herpes or another STD. Therefore, if you can prove that you did not know you had herpes at the time you had sex with the alleged victim, the assault charges could be dismissed.

It would not be a defense if the person did not contract herpes. Assault includes the “attempt” to cause harm to another person. Therefore, knowingly having sex with someone when you have herpes could be enough for an assault conviction.

You may also avoid an assault conviction if you can prove that the person knew you had herpes and consented to have sexual contact with that knowledge. Another defense could be that you were forced to engage in sexual conduct against your will.

What Should You Do if You are Arrested for an STD-Related Assault Charge?

If you are arrested on an STD-related assault charge, do not answer questions or provide a statement to the police. The police may pressure you to explain what happened. An officer may threaten you with a blood test against your will.

Do not be a victim of aggressive police tactics. Exercise your legal right to remain silent except for asking for an attorney. By talking to the police, you provide additional evidence they could use against you in court.

If you have been released from jail, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can provide additional guidance on things you should and should not do as you prepare a defense to the assault charges.

Do not contact the alleged victim or attempt to contact the victim through a third party. Contacting the alleged victim after being released from jail could result in additional criminal charges.

Begin gathering evidence that can help prove that you did not know that you had herpes, you do not have herpes, or that the sexual encounter was consensual after you informed the person you had herpes. Text messages, social media posts, and other written evidence that the person knew you had herpes could be helpful in your defense.