Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/07/1995 08:03 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 STA - 03/07/95                                                                
 HB 199 - CRIMINAL TRANSMISSION OF HIV                                       
 Number 296                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said the intent of HB 199 is simple:  A                   
 person who knowingly has HIV and commits an act that is known to              
 transmit HIV to others is guilty of a Class A felony.                         
 Number 320                                                                    
 BARBARA BRINK, Deputy Director, Alaska Public Defender Agency,                
 testified via teleconference, stating the Alaska Public Defender              
 Agency is concerned about the broad language of HB 199.  Though               
 the agency agrees with the goal of protecting the public's                    
 health, the prohibited behavior must be described more precisely              
 to assure due process notice.  The bill does not define "intimate             
 sexual contact" and thus may not be constitutional.  The bill                 
 lacks a definition of "reasonable efforts"  and criminalizes                  
 conduct such as that of transmission of HIV from a mother to her              
 fetus.  It also includes organ donors who are already governed by             
 stringent medical standards.  It shifts the burden of proof, and              
 only applies to people who are legally married at the time.                   
 Number 355                                                                    
 MS. BRINK reiterated she believes the intent of the bill is                   
 excellent, but use of the criminal code may not be the best way               
 to achieve this goal.  This bill makes it a Class A felony and                
 may discourage people from getting tested for HIV so they won't               
 know what their HIV status is and cannot be held liable; her                  
 agency wants to encourage voluntary testing.  The spread of                   
 communicable disease is a serious issue in Alaska, but laws do                
 not exist to punish people for spreading tuberculosis or                      
 Number 380                                                                    
 MS. BRINK continued she believes there are already laws in Alaska             
 which could be utilized for punishing a person who deliberately               
 and recklessly infect other people; for example, assault in the               
 first degree if there was an intention to inflict injury, which               
 would include intentionally transmitting the virus.  Recklessly               
 engaging in a harmful behavior is also punishable as assault in               
 the second degree and carries a jail sentence of up to ten years.             
 Given these concerns, she urged this bill not be passed from                  
 Number 407                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES said she "thought we were quite sure what behavior                
 spreads HIV," contrary to Ms. Brink's statement.  She also                    
 wondered if assault included rape, and whether there had ever                 
 been a penalty in the past for people failing to submit to                    
 quarantines for such things as smallpox.                                      
 MS. BRINK replied she was unaware of any penalty for refusal to               
 obey or stay in quarantine status.  The assault charges she was               
 speaking of were separate from rape charges; Alaska's assault                 
 charges are written so broadly, they in fact could cover                      
 consentual activity if that activity recklessly endangered                    
 another person.  If a person engaged in brutal behavior which                 
 could result in HIV transmission, that would be an additional                 
 charge.  Reckless behavior occurs when a person is aware that his             
 or her behavior could injure another person and does it anyway.               
 Number 454                                                                    
 MS. BRINK continued she did not see a definition of "intimate                 
 sexual contact" in the bill, though a companion senate bill does              
 have the definition.  In fact, there is still a lot of discussion             
 among health care professionals as to exactly how the HIV virus               
 can be transmitted, via which bodily fluids and via what bodily               
 contact.  Medical science is not clear on this; there is even a               
 strong school of thought which doubts whether HIV causes AIDS at              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects