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Michigan Police Department Liable for Discrimination based on HIV Status

In 2012, Shalandra Jones was pulled over for a routine traffic stop in Dearborn, Michigan. The officer involved reported that he pulled the car over, in which Ms. Jones was a passenger, because the brake light was out. He reported smelling marijuana, and found a small amount, as well as several of Ms. Jones’ medications. Ms. Jones provided the officer with her marijuana medical card, which had expired, and, in response to his inquiries about her medications, told the officer that she had HIV.

After disclosing her HIV status, the officer was reported to have said that the police do not like people with HIV and that Ms. Jones should have disclosed her HIV status immediately, so he could have worn gloves for the search. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is transmitted when certain bodily fluids – blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk – of a person living with HIV come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue of someone who does not have HIV. HIV cannot be spread through casual contact, cannot be spread through saliva, is not spread through the air, and does not live long outside the body.

Ms. Jones was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession; the charge was dismissed last year. In 2014, Ms. Jones filed suit against the city. On September 22, 2015, Ms. Jones settled her lawsuit with the city of Dearborn for $40,000.

HIV Disclosure Laws

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are many states with statutes requiring those living with HIV to share their HIV status with specific people. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which compiled a list of laws in place in 2008, state statutes requiring disclosure generally required those living with HIV to disclose their status to sexual partners and/or health care providers, such as physicians or dentists. There is no law that requires those living with HIV to disclose their HIV status to law enforcement officers.

Florida HIV Disclosure Law

According to Florida law, any person who knows that he or she has HIV, or any other sexually transmitted infection (STI) (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis), and who has been informed that he or she may transmit the disease to another person during sexual intercourse, is required to inform his or her partner(s) of their HIV or STI status prior to having sexual intercourse.

Florida law includes no requirement to disclose HIV status, or diagnosis of any other STI, to anyone other than a sexual partner. There is no requirement to share HIV status with medical professionals or with law enforcement officers.

Disability Discrimination

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits state or local public entities, such as local police departments and law enforcement officers, from subjecting any qualified individual with a disability to discrimination. According to the statute, disability includes “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” and is specifically defined to include HIV, regardless of whether or not the person is experiencing symptoms. While officers may be entitled to take certain steps – such as making a stop or conducting a search – while dealing with the public, officers are not entitled to treat citizens differently on the basis of HIV status.

If you or your loved one has been stopped by the police and have questions about your treatment and your rights, contact the experienced Florida lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for a consultation today.

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