Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -
Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Assemblywoman Donna Simon, all R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex, held a press conference this morning at the Somerset County Court House to discuss legislation they have introduced that permits the release, through a court order, of a person’s medical records related to HIV or AIDS infection during the course of an investigation or prosecution when the accused person commits an act of sexual penetration without the informed consent of the other person.
Someone who is aware they are HIV positive or has AIDS and fails to inform their partner prior to a sexual encounter can be charged with a third-degree crime. Under the current statute, accessing medical information is only granted for first-degree crimes.
“Failing to inform a sexual partner of this type of personal information can result in life changing and deadly results and is akin to the most serious of assaults,” said Bateman. “In order to allow for the appropriate prosecution of this appalling crime – and to send a message to others that this selfish and dangerous behavior won’t be tolerated – we must give the court the ability to consider information critical to the case like a suspect’s medical history.
“Tragically, as many as 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year and thousands with AIDS die during the same time,” added Bateman. “We have to address this epidemic and that includes giving teeth to current laws in order to send a message that those irresponsible enough to commit this criminal behavior will be held fully accountable.”
In July, an appeals court ruled that prosecutors in New Jersey couldn’t use medical records in a Somerset County case against a person accused of having sex with two women without telling them that he is HIV-positive. The court ruled that state laws protect health privacy and the patient-physician privilege. The assistant prosecutor in the case had sought to use the accused’s medical records.
“Under these circumstances, a person withholding such important medical information from their partner demonstrates the worse kind of selfishness, irresponsibility, and recklessness,” said Ciattarelli. “By closing a loophole in the law which prohibited important evidence from being disclosed at trial, this legislation will clarify the Legislature’s intent to make the medical records of the accused accessible to the prosecution.
“We need to give our law enforcement community the tools they need to determine whether the deception was intentional,” explained Ciattarelli. “Only then can we hold the accused accountable and ensure that justice will be served.”
The bill, A-4380/S-2979, also provides that a conviction for the subject offense is not eligible for expungement from a person’s record.
“In our court system, the accused has the right to hear all the evidence presented at their trial,” said Simon. “Certainly, the victims in this case should have an equal right to be informed of all of the relevant information. I am shocked and disgusted that a person could act in such a heinous manner, possibly infecting other human beings with HIV, a deadly disease. Not sharing vital information with another person for their consideration is reprehensible and criminal.
“This legislation will close the loophole and give prosecutors justifiable access to such critical evidence that is vital to prove innocence or guilt,” explained Simon.top