Can I be sued or even arrested if I accidentally gave someone an STD?

UPDATED: May 29, 2014

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Can I be sued or even arrested if I accidentally gave someone an STD?

I have been seeing a woman on and off for a few years. I have had many partners during this time. Recently I was experiencing some weird symptoms and went to get checked out. Before my test results came back we had protected sex and the condom broke. I was very intoxicated and continued with sex. The next day I received a positive for chlamydia. I informed her that she should get tested. If she’s positive, Can she sue? Could I be arrested and jailed?

Asked on May 29, 2014 under Criminal Law, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Criminal liability requires a criminal intent as well as a potentially criminal act. Criminal intent generally means either an intention to do the harmful act (whether or not you knew it was illegal) or at least recklessness, which goes beyond ordinary carelessness--the classic example is shooting a gun in the air in a crowded location. From what you write, you would not appear to have either recklessly (with no concern about consequences) or intentionally engaged in unprotected sex while having a STD; therefore, it appears that you would not, on  these facts, face criminal liability.

However, civil liability (a lawsuit) only requires ordinary carelessness, or negligence. It could easily be considered careless to have sex, even with a condom, while one suspects that one may have an STD and while waiting for the test results, and without telling your partner ahead of time--the reasonable thing to do would have been to not have sex while waiting for the results. Therefore, the woman does contract the disease, she may be able to successfully sue you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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