Are you Legally Required to Tell Someone You Have Herpes in Pennsylvania?

No, you are generally not legally required to tell someone you have herpes. However, if you knowingly engage in sexual activity with that person, you could face criminal and civil penalties for failing to tell the person you have herpes. Therefore, if you are accused of knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in Pennsylvania, you may want to talk to a West Chester criminal defense lawyer immediately.

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be passed to another person through sexual intercourse. Genital herpes infects hundreds of thousands of people each year. 

There is no cure for herpes. It can cause painful breakouts for the rest of the person’s life. 

Herpes begins as a blister before turning into a painful sore that can last for more than a week. The blisters appear around the person’s genitals, rectum, or mouth. The person may experience fever, swollen glands, body aches, and other flu-like symptoms during a herpes outbreak.

Doctors may prescribe medications that can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Some daily herpes medications can reduce the risk of passing the STD to another person. In some cases, individuals may experience fewer breakouts in the future.

Someone could be infected with herpes and unknowingly transmit the STD to another person. Herpes may not always cause breakouts. Also, the disease can be transmitted even though the person does not have any symptoms of herpes.

Pennsylvania Law Regarding Transmission of Herpes

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have a law that makes it illegal to have sex with someone when you know you have herpes or another sexually transmitted disease. However, the state could charge you with another crime if you know you have herpes and conceal that fact from a sexual partner.

Recklessly Endangering Another Person

You can be charged with reckless endangerment (18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 2705) if you recklessly engage in conduct that puts or could put another person in danger of serious bodily injury or death. Since there is no cure for herpes, a jury may consider transmitting herpes a serious bodily injury. 

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is another crime that could apply if you have sex with someone when you know you have a sexually transmitted disease. Intentionally exposing someone to herpes could be considered inflicting or attempting to inflict great bodily injury. 

Potential Punishments for Intentionally Transmitting Herpes in Pennsylvania

Convictions for reckless endangerment can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to two years in prison. Aggravated assault is punished by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 as a first-degree felony. As a second-degree felony, aggravated assault carries a fine of up to $25,000 and five to ten years in prison. 

However, criminal penalties are just one of the potential consequences of having sex without telling a partner you have herpes. You could also be sued in civil court for damages caused by your negligent conduct.

Civil Consequences of Transmitting an STD to a Partner

If you have sex with another person knowing you have herpes or another STD, you could be sued for damages if you do not tell the person about the disease before sex. However, the person would need to prove that you knew you were infected and failed to tell them before sexual intercourse.

We all have a duty to avoid causing harm or unreasonable risk of harm to others. Breaching this duty of care can result in a negligence claim. The legal elements of negligence are:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation 
  • Damages

Negligence is failing to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would have used in similar circumstances. For example, a jury may find that a reasonable person who knew they had herpes would understand that having sex with someone could spread the infection. Therefore, a reasonable person would inform the other person of the herpes diagnosis so the person could decide whether to take the risk.

If the defendant did not inform the other person that they had herpes, the jury might find the defendant liable for damages. Damages in a personal injury case can include medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, emotional distress, permanent impairment, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Even if you wear a condom, you still place the person at risk. Therefore, if you do not tell a potential partner you have herpes or another STD, you could be arrested for a crime and sued in civil court.

Contact Our Sex Crimes Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA sex crimes lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535