Main | Friday, June 08, 2012

NEW YORK: Appeals Court Rules That HIV+ Saliva Is Not A "Deadly Weapon"

A panel of judges on the New York Court of Appeals has unanimously overturned a lower court and ruled that if an HIV+ person spits on or bites somebody, his saliva cannot be considered a "deadly weapon or dangerous instrument."
David Plunkett was serving a 10-year sentence for punching and biting a police officer. The incident occurred in 2006 when Plunkett was causing a disturbance as a patient at an Ilion clinic. Plunkett reportedly had a history of medical illness and assaulted one of the responding officers. In New York, in order for assault to become aggravated assault (which carries a greater penalty), the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is required. The original judge considered HIV-positive saliva a deadly weapon, making biting an aggravated assault. Plunkett pleaded guilty to both assault and aggravated assault. However, on June 7, the court dismissed the aggravated assault conviction, stating saliva should be treated the same as teeth, which in 1999 were deemed not to be dangerous instruments on the grounds that body parts come with the person and thus do not increase criminal liability.
The above-linked report notes that there has never been a proved case of HIV transmission via saliva. (Tipped by JMG reader Dirk)

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