House Reduces Penalties for Intentional HIV Infection

In Olympia, a controversial bill that would reduce the punishment for those who intentionally infect another with the HIV virus passed the House of Representatives along party lines Wednesday, with Republicans voting no. The story from Washington House Republicans’ John Sattgast at the state Capitol.

SATTGAST: House Bill 1551 would reduce the crime of intentional transmission of HIV from the felony crime of assault in the first degree down to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor – which Republicans say would make it a crime equivalent to stealing a candy bar.

Port Orchard Republican Representative Michelle Caldier says prosecutors often use the HIV felony crime as a method to convict and put away rapists. She says that’s because it’s so difficult to get a rape conviction when sexual assault victims are reluctant to testify. The 26th District lawmaker says this new proposal would remove that prosecution tool…

CALDIER:  “Those rape victims deserve a voice. And what’s going to happen to all those rape victims where they were able to prosecute this? And now we’re going to reduce the sentence. We’re going to let those rapists go free. I’m not okay with that! And it breaks my heart that so many people on this floor are.”

SATTGAST: Caldier argued that lowering the punishment for intentional HIV infection would put many people at risk and remove their ability for informed consent.

The bill passed 57-40 with all Democrats voting yes and Republicans voting no. The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration. John Sattgast, Olympia.