Judge Dismisses Bioterrorism Charge Against HIV-Positive Man

June 03, 2010

DETROIT – A Macomb County Circuit Court judge dismissed a bioterrorism charge late Wednesday against an HIV-positive man accused of biting his neighbor. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged the court to drop the charges in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in March.

“This is a victory for all people living with HIV who risked facing similar outrageous and misguided criminal charges based solely on their HIV status. The court today made it clear that one does not become a bioterrorist because he has HIV,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. “We believe this is the first time someone has faced such a charge for living with HIV and we hope, after this decision, it will be the last time.”

In October 2009, Daniel Allen of Clinton Township was involved in a physical altercation with his neighbor. Following the incident, he was arrested and charged with assault and battery. In addition, the Macomb County prosecutor added the bioterrorism charge of possession or use of a harmful device because Allen is HIV-positive and allegedly bit his neighbor.

On March 31, 2010, the ACLU of Michigan submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that that the charge was founded on baseless assumptions about how HIV is transmitted and that the Michigan terrorism statute was not designed to punish this sort of behavior because the state bioterrorism law was passed in reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing.

According to its 8-page brief, “Not only is Michigan’s bioterrorism law being misapplied, but such charges by the Macomb Prosecuting Attorney’s office have the effect of demonizing people living with HIV, promoting both fear and ignorance regarding how HIV is transmitted and discriminating against people living with this virus.”

Furthermore, the ACLU reported that the prosecution advanced medically inaccurate information about the transmission of HIV. According to the Center for Disease Control and other medical and scientific experts, the HIV virus cannot be spread by saliva unless it contains blood and that contact with saliva, tears and sweat alone has never been shown to transmit HIV.

To read the brief, click here.

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