We Gotta Talk About That Geico CaseWhile many sexually transmitted diseases/infections are curable — or at least treatable — they still cause a lot of pain, suffering, and embarrassment, and the more serious of them can and do take lives. We know this, right? Every sexually active adult is (or should be) aware of the risks of unprotected sex so they can take steps to keep themselves and their partners safe, and every sexually active adult dreads a blood test leading to a phone call from their doctor.

The point is that STDs are more than the most inconvenient part of something otherwise pretty awesome. They’re legitimate dangers and risks, and therefore, surprise! There are laws around them. Not in every state and for every STI, but Maryland especially has actual legislation that can result in the conviction of a crime if they knowingly transmit certain sexually-transmitted diseases to a partner. It may sound far-fetched, but it happens more than you may think. If you’re sexually active, you could find yourself facing charges. Guilty or not, protecting yourself is more than using a condom.

Why are you talking about STIs?

Because of this story.

A woman had sex with her partner in his car back in 2017. Said partner didn’t tell her that he had an HPV-positive tumor in his throat at the time, and thus infected her with HPV. Wanna know what she did? She got herself an attorney, and that attorney got GEICO to pay her $5 MILLION in damages. The car was insured by GEICO and the act took place inside that insured car and her attorney found a way to make that work for her.

In essence, the man “was insured against his personal liability arising from his negligence in actions involving his automobile,” and that made GEICO liable. They tried to fight this for about five years, that giant insurance conglomerate, and they still lost.

Now technically, this was a civil case, not a criminal one, and I’m not a civil attorney. But the first thing I thought when I read this story was “I can’t believe that worked” and the second thing was “This guy woulda gone to prison in Maryland.”

Here’s how it works. Serious, incurable STDs like HIV and genital herpes can cause serious harm to the people they infect, and while medicine has come an incredibly long way in treating these ailments, they’re still not curable. This means, obviously, that people live with it for the rest of their lives in some way. Because of the potential severity, people with one of those STDs have a duty to prevent spreading the disease however possible — or at the very least, never conceal it from their partners. If they fail to meet that duty (either by not using proper protection or by hiding their status from a partner) and infect someone, they could end up liable for that person’s damages.

In many cases, as long as someone didn’t lie about their status and they just failed to get tested, partners don’t file a negligence suit. However, intentional transmission of STDs is a crime in Maryland. So, if you did know and you hid it, you could be facing incredibly serious consequences and charges including battery, assault, reckless endangerment, and the knowing transfer of HIV (if applicable).

A guy in Frederick County found this out the hard way back in 2019. He knowingly transferred HIV to three women, and now he’s in prison for the next 21 years.

Part of the reason why Maryland can be so harsh and unforgiving in these situations is because they do make it pretty easy to avoid negligence through social services and education. The Department of Health offers Partner Services, with free and confidential sexual health experts voluntarily assigned to those who test positive for an STD. They answer all your questions, help you contact partners, guide you through treatment, and basically do everything you could possibly need to keep you and your partners safe.  So, the logic of the law is that negligence is rarely actually negligence, and is usually recklessness.

A good Annapolis criminal defense attorney can help – really

The key word in your defense is “knowingly.” This is where an experienced Annapolis criminal defense attorney can help.

An aggressive, trustworthy, experienced lawyer can seriously transform your case, regardless of what it is. Our whole deal is navigating the law, and when we’re really good at it, we can do it in ways you may not even think possible.

Attorneys aren’t superheroes, and a win is never guaranteed, but hiring one will likely improve your chances of walking away from a serious criminal charge. If a vengeful partner is trying to accuse you of knowingly infecting them with an incurable STI (which could trigger a domestic violence charge if you two are actually together), your attorney should be able to tailor your defense to suit your case. This could mean providing alibis, discrediting your accuser, or claiming accidental harm — or it could mean something entirely different and original that wins you your freedom.

Look, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the other side always has an attorney. If they do and you don’t, you are on uneven ground, period. If you’re accused of criminal charges and you try to face off against a DA or a personal injury attorney, you will lose. With how much might be on the line, is ego really worth it?

It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do; you still deserve fair representation and trial. You still deserve a chance. Whether you’re entirely innocent or a bit less than, take steps to protect yourself and your rights as soon as they’re threatened. If you’re in Annapolis or Ellicott City, come see me for help you can rely on without any shame or blame. My name is Drew Cochran, and I’m an experienced Annapolis criminal defense lawyer who is here to help. You can reach my office – Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law – by phone at 410-271-1892 or via our contact form, and you should do so sooner rather than later.

Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!