Article written by DPDF 2010 Discrimination Studies Fellow Trevor Hoppe, featured in Punishment & Society, Volume 17, No. 1:
Recent public debates on race and crime have reignited an interest in the criminology literature on the effect of victim characteristics on criminal justice outcomes. This article examines whether defendant and complaining witness demographic characteristics are associated with disparate outcomes under Michigan’s felony HIV disclosure statute, which makes it a crime for HIV-positive individuals to have sex without first disclosing their HIV-status. Despite indications nationwide that the number of defendants charged under HIV-specific criminal statutes (HSCS) is increasing, few empirical studies have examined their application. This study of HSCS convictions (N = 51) retrospectively observes and compares the risks of conviction under Michigan’s HSCS for particular HIV-positive subpopulations between 1992 and 2010. Overall, a comparatively greater risk of conviction was observed for black men with female partners and white women overall. Contrary to expectations, a comparatively low risk of conviction was observed for men with male partners as compared to men with female partners. While the observational methodology employed in this analysis cannot identify the causal mechanisms driving the observed disparities, the findings nonetheless suggest an uneven application of Michigan’s HIV disclosure law deserving of further inquiry.