Maryland

Number of reported cases At least 14 How do we calculate the number of cases

Overview

Maryland law contains one HIV-specific provision criminalising perceived ‘exposure’, but general criminal laws have also been used to prosecute people living with HIV.

The HIV-specific provision ostensibly criminalises the ‘knowing transfer of HIV to another’, or attempts to do so, with a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine. Although the provision is drafted in terms of transmission, this is not a required element of the offence as the inclusion of the attempt clause means only perceived ‘exposure’ is required. The provision does not define what kind of conduct is covered, and cases ranging from sexual conduct to biting have been prosecuted, suggesting that any type of ‘exposure’ is covered regardless of risk of transmission. There is also no defence of condom use or other protections.

There have been at least three prosecutions under this HIV-specific provision, including a 2019 case in which a man was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, with all but nine years suspended, after having sex with at least three women.

Despite the presence of this provision, general criminal laws have more frequently been used to prosecute HIV ‘exposure’ cases. At least three cases have been prosecuted under a reckless endangerment offence, which requires a substantial risk of death or serious injury. In 2015, a man pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment for having sex with two women after making an agreement with prosecutors in which HIV-specific charges would be dropped. This was despite the fact that he had an undetectable viral load and could not transmit HIV. He was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and was also ordered not to have unprotected sex, but was found dead in his cell in 2017.

Charges under other offences have been made against people living with HIV for conduct which carries virtually no risk of transmission, such as a 2010 charge of assault for spitting which resulted in a five-year prison sentence, and a 2016 charge of attempted murder for biting. It is not clear whether this latter case resulted in conviction, but previous case law indicates that an intention to transmit must be proven, rather than mere recklessness (see CHLP report below).

Maryland law also contains a provision criminalising people with STIs that ‘endanger public health’ who fail to take ‘proper precautions’ against ‘exposure’ in public places, or transfer articles that have been ‘exposed’ to the STI without disinfection. The penalty available is up to one year imprisonment and a fine. The specific STIs included are not stated, so it is unclear whether this includes HIV.

There does not appear to have been significant organised attempts to reform the law in Maryland, perhaps due to the relatively limited cases, scope of the law, and available sentences. An attempt to repeal the HIV-specific provision law in 2013 was withdrawn after advocates warned that it could do more harm than good.

For a detailed analysis of HIV criminalisation in Maryland, as well as all other US states, see the Center for HIV Law and Policy report, HIV Criminalisation in the United States: a Sourcebook on State and Federal HIV Criminal Law and Practice.

Laws

18-601.1 - Exposure of Other Individuals -- by Individual With Human Immunodeficiency Virus

HIV-specific criminal law (active)
Year enacted
2005
Relevant text of the law

(a)    An individual who has the human immunodeficiency virus may not knowingly transfer or attempt to transfer the human immunodeficiency virus to another individual.

(b)    A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $2,500 or imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or both.

Section 18-207 - Human Immunodeficiency Virus; Case Report; Confidentiality

HIV-specific criminal law (active)
Relevant text of the law

[…]

(b)    (1)    Except for a designated anonymous HIV test site, a facility or office that orders a test for HIV and receives a test result that documents the presence of HIV as defined by the CDC laboratory criteria shall, upon the Secretary’s request, make available to the Secretary, or an agent of the Secretary, the information necessary to compile an HIV/AIDS case report.

(2)    A report or information assembled or obtained under this section:

(i)    Is confidential and subject to Title 4, Subtitle 1 of this article; and

(ii)    Is not a medical record under Title 4, Subtitle 3 of this article, but is subject to the confidentiality requirements of Title 4, Subtitle 1 of this article.

(3)    This subsection does not apply to a disclosure by the Secretary to another governmental agency performing its lawful duties pursuant to State or federal law where the Secretary determines that the agency to which the information is disclosed will maintain the confidentiality of the disclosure.

(4)    The report and any proceedings, records, or files relating to the reports required under this section are not discoverable and are not admissible in evidence in any civil action.

18-602 - Exposure of Other Individuals -- by Other Person

Public health law (active)
Relevant text of the law

(a)    A person may not:

(1)    Willfully or knowingly take an individual who has an infectious disease that endangers public health to the home of another individual;

(2)    Carelessly expose an individual to another who has an infectious disease that endangers public health; or

(3)    Permit a child who has an infectious disease that endangers public health to be in a public place while in charge of the child.

(b)    A person who violates any provision of this section is subject to a fine not exceeding $100.

 

Section 3-204 - Reckless Endangerment

HIV-specific criminal law (active)
Relevant text of the law

(a)    A person may not recklessly:

(1)    engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another; or

(2)    discharge a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.

(b)    A person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.

Further resources

Not all laws used to prosecute people living with HIV in this state are included on this page. For a comprehensive overview and analysis of HIV-related criminal and similar laws and policies, visit The Center for HIV Law and Policy

Acknowledgements

This information was last reviewed in October 2022