Last night, I appeared on E! News discussing the criminal charges and civil lawsuits Charlie Sheen could expect after his announcement that he's HIV positive. For more from my interview, go to eonline.com.
There are reports Charlie was threatened with lawsuits, and even settled some lawsuits already. What these women likely sued for, or could have sued him for, is sexual battery. Under California law, a person commits a sexual battery when intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of another, and a sexually offensive contact with that person directly results. Sheen intended to have sex with the plaintiff; the contact was harmful or offensive because it exposed the plaintiff to a fatal disease, and Sheen knew this. Had he engaged in unprotected sex without informing his partners of his HIV-positive status, a sexually offensive contact would have resulted. These women would be entitled to recover damages caused by the sexual battery, even if they didn't end up contracting HIV, because they can recover money for their mental suffering - the fear, anxiety, shock and worry from finding out Sheen is HIV positive and worrying they might have contracted the disease. Also, even if these women consented to having sex with Sheen, Sheen would not be able to use that as a defense because, under California law, failure to disclose HIV prior to intercourse negates their consent and turns consensual sex into a sexual battery.
And that’s just what Charlie Sheen could expect from a civil lawsuit. He could also be facing criminal punishment. Under California criminal law, any person who exposes another to HIV by engaging in unprotected sex when the infected person knows at the time of the unprotected sex that he is infected with HIV, has not disclosed his HIV-positive status, and acts with the specific intent to infect the other person with HIV, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 3, 5 or 8 years. However, it is very difficult to prove this crime. Just because Sheen knew of his HIV-positive status, without additional evidence, isn't enough to prove he had the specific intent to infect these women. That’s why, if you have HIV, and you expose your partner to it without disclosure, you are more likely to be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. Under California criminal law, any person afflicted with any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease who willfully exposes himself to another person, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty is up to six months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.