Victory! Iowa Supreme Court Reverses Conviction in Lambda Legal HIV Criminalization Case
"An individual who takes precautions to prevent transmission should not be considered a criminal for choosing to be sexually active, and we are very pleased that the Court agrees." Date: 06/13/2014
(Des Moines, IA, June 13, 2014) - Today the Iowa Supreme Court set aside the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an
HIV-positive Iowan who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, with required registration as a sex offender, after
having a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom. In reversing the conviction, the
Court recognized that HIV-positive individuals who have a reduced viral load as a result of effective treatment
pose little risk of transmitting HIV.
"We applaud the Court for applying the law in light of current medical understanding of how HIV is and is not
transmitted," said Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal. "An individual who takes precautions to prevent transmission should not be considered a criminal for choosing to be
sexually active, and we are very pleased that the Court agrees."
Justice Wiggins wrote for the majority opinion: "Based on the state of medicine both now and at the time
of the plea in 2009, we are unable to take judicial notice that an infected individual can transmit HIV, regardless of an
infected individual's viral load, when that individual engages in protected anal or unprotected oral sex with an
In June 2008, Rhoades had a one-time sexual encounter with Adam Plendl during which they used a condom. Several
days later, Plendl was told by a friend that Rhoades might be HIV-positive. The police were contacted and Mr. Plendl
cooperated fully in the effort to prosecute Mr. Rhoades. The police arrested Rhoades in September 2008, and on the
advice of his counsel, he pled guilty. Despite the fact that a condom was used and Mr. Plendl did not contract
HIV, Rhoades was convicted under Iowa's HIV criminalization law. He received the maximum sentence: 25 years
in prison and classification as the most serious type of sex offender. Subsequently, the court suspended
his prison sentence, and he was placed on supervised probation for five years. On March 15, 2010,
Rhoades filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief, arguing that the attorney who advised
him to plead guilty had failed to inform him of the specifics of the statute, resulting in
his conviction for a crime he did not in fact commit. In December 2011, the district
court denied the application. Lambda Legal represented Mr. Rhoades in his appeal,
and argued the matter on his behalf in the Iowa Supreme Court in March 2014.
"In light of today's decision, we believe that additional modifications to the state's infectious disease law should be
considered," said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal. "Great strides were made through the
law's recent amendment, and we are hopeful that today's decision-acknowledging the effectiveness of various HIV
prevention measures-will fuel the Iowa Legislature's clear desire to bring the state's law fully up to date."
Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 160 prosecutions
in the United States in the past four years. Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that
fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV. It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention
responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.
"The importance of the Iowa Supreme Court's decision cannot be overstated," said Clark. "We look forward to making these
arguments again and to taking this Court's clear guidance on the interpretation and application of these types of laws to the many
jurisdictions in which HIV criminalization remains a pressing issue."
Read the decision here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/node/31416
The case is Nick Rhoades v. State of Iowa , for more information, visit our case page here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/rhoades-v-iowa
Christopher Clark, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office and Scott A. Schoettes, HIV Project Director are handling the case
for Lambda Legal. They are joined by Joseph C. Glazebrook and Dan L. Johnston with Glazebrook & Moe, LLP based in Des Moines,
Criminal Justice HIV
Source: Lambda Legal... http://www.lambdalegal.org/node/31421
Reproduced with permission - "Lambda Legal"
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