Germany

Last updated on: 17 September 2014

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Germany
Whether Specific law enacted: 
No
Number of people prosecuted: 
At least 36
Number of people convicted: 
At least 28, 1 finding pending
Applicable law: 

(General) Penal code (HIV-Infection: §§ 223, 224 StGB, Attempt/Exposure: §§ 223, 224, 22, 23, 49 StGB; HIV-Infection by accident: § 229 StGB)

  • Both exposure and transmission are subject to prosecution.
  • Sentencing possibilities range from a fine through to life imprisonment, although the maximum known sentence has been 10 years.

Full text of relevant laws in German (English summary below)

§ 223 Körperverletzung

(1) Wer eine andere Person körperlich misshandelt oder an der Gesundheit schädigt, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu fünf Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.

(2) Der Versuch ist strafbar.

§ 224 Gefährliche Körperverletzung

(1) Wer die Körperverletzung

  1. durch Beibringung von Gift oder anderen gesundheitsschädlichen Stoffen,
  2. mittels einer Waffe oder eines anderen gefährlichen Werkzeugs,
  3. mittels eines hinterlistigen Überfalls,
  4. mit einem anderen Beteiligten gemeinschaftlich oder
  5. mittels einer das Leben gefährdenden Behandlung

begeht, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe von sechs Monaten bis zu zehn Jahren, in minder schweren Fällen mit Freiheitsstrafe von drei Monaten bis zu fünf Jahren bestraft.

(2) Der Versuch ist strafbar.

§ 226 Schwere Körperverletzung

(1) Hat die Körperverletzung zur Folge, dass die verletzte Person

  1. das Sehvermögen auf einem Auge oder beiden Augen, das Gehör, das Sprechvermögen oder die Fortpflanzungsfähigkeit verliert,
  2. ein wichtiges Glied des Körpers verliert oder dauernd nicht mehr gebrauchen kann oder
  3. in erheblicher Weise dauernd entstellt wird oder in Siechtum, Lähmung oder geistige Krankheit oder Behinderung verfällt, so ist die Strafe Freiheitsstrafe von einem Jahr bis zu zehn Jahren.

(2) Verursacht der Täter eine der in Absatz 1 bezeichneten Folgen absichtlich oder wissentlich, so ist die Strafe Freiheitsstrafe nicht unter drei Jahren.

(3) In minder schweren Fällen des Absatzes 1 ist auf Freiheitsstrafe von sechs Monaten bis zu fünf Jahren, in minder schweren Fällen des Absatzes 2 auf Freiheitsstrafe von einem Jahr bis zu zehn Jahren zu erkennen.

§ 228 Einwilligung

Wer eine Körperverletzung mit Einwilligung der verletzten Person vornimmt, handelt nur dann rechtswidrig, wenn die Tat trotz der Einwilligung gegen die guten Sitten verstößt.

§ 229 Fahrlässige Körperverletzung

Wer durch Fahrlässigkeit die Körperverletzung einer anderen Person verursacht, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu drei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.
Relevante allgemeine Vorschriften des Allgemeinen Teils des Strafgesetzbusches

§ 22 (Versuch) Begriffsbestimmung

Eine Straftat versucht, wer nach seiner Vorstellung von der Tat zur Verwirklichung des Tatbestandes unmittelbar ansetzt.

§ 23 Strafbarkeit des Versuchs

(1) Der Versuch eines Verbrechens60 ist stets strafbar, der Versuch eines Vergehens61 nur dann, wenn das Gesetz es ausdrücklich bestimmt.

(2) Der Versuch kann milder bestraft werden als die vollendete Tat (§ 49 Abs. 1).

(3) Hat der Täter aus grobem Unverstand verkannt, dass der Versuch nach der Art des Gegenstandes, an dem, oder des Mittels, mit dem die Tat begangen werden sollte, überhaupt nicht zur Vollendung führen konnte, so kann das Gericht von Strafe absehen oder die Strafe nach seinem Ermessen
mildern (§ 49 Abs. 2).

§ 24 Rücktritt

(1) Wegen Versuchs wird nicht bestraft, wer freiwillig die weitere Ausführung der Tat aufgibt oder deren Vollendung verhindert. Wird die Tat ohne Zutun des Zurücktretenden nicht vollendet, so wird er straflos, wenn er sich freiwillig und ernsthaft bemüht, die Vollendung zu verhindern.
(2) Sind an der Tat mehrere beteiligt, so wird wegen Versuchs nicht bestraft, wer freiwillig die Vollendung verhindert. Jedoch genügt zu seiner Straflosigkeit sein freiwilliges und ernsthaftes Bemühen, die Vollendung der Tat zu verhindern, wenn sie ohne sein Zutun nicht vollendet oder
unabhängig von seinem früheren Tatbeitrag begangen wird.

§ 49 Besondere gesetzliche Milderungsgründe

(1) Ist eine Milderung nach dieser Vorschrift vorgeschrieben oder zugelassen, so gilt für die Milderung folgendes:

  1. An die Stelle von lebenslanger Freiheitsstrafe tritt Freiheitsstrafe nicht unter drei Jahren.
  2. Bei zeitiger Freiheitsstrafe darf höchstens auf drei Viertel des angedrohten Höchstmaßes erkannt werden. Bei Geldstrafe gilt dasselbe für die Höchstzahl der Tagessätze.
  3. Das erhöhte Mindestmaß einer Freiheitsstrafe ermäßigt sich
  • im Falle eines Mindestmaßes von zehn oder fünf Jahren auf zwei Jahre,
  • im Falle eines Mindestmaßes von drei oder zwei Jahren auf sechs Monate,
  • im Falle eines Mindestmaßes von einem Jahr auf drei Monate,
  • im Übrigen auf das gesetzliche Mindestmaß.

(2) Darf das Gericht nach einem Gesetz, das auf diese Vorschrift verweist, die Strafe nach seinem Ermessen mildern, so kann es bis zum gesetzlichen Mindestmaß der angedrohten Strafe herab gehen oder statt auf Freiheitsstrafe auf Geldstrafe erkennen.

Key wording in the law: 
English Language Translation:
§ 223 Bodily Injury
(1)     Whoever physically abuses or damages the health of another person will be punished with imprisonment for up to five years or with a fine.
(2)     The attempt is punishable.
§ 224 Aggravated Assault
(1)     Whoever commits bodily injury
1.     through the administration of poison or other substances dangerous to health,
2.     by means of a weapon or another dangerous instrument,
3.     by means of a deceptive attack,
4.     acting jointly with another participant,
5.     by means of life-threatening treatment,
will be punished by imprisonment of six months to ten years or, in less serious cases, with imprisonment of three months to five years.
(2)     The attempt is punishable.
§ 228 Consent
Whoever commits bodily injury with the consent of the injured person acts unlawfully only if the act or offense is contrary to good morals despite the consent.
§ 229 Negligent Bodily Injury
Whoever negligently causes bodily injury to another person will be punished by imprisonment of up to three years or with a fine.
§ 22 Definition
An attempt at committing a criminal offense is made by whomever, based on his understanding of the act, directly begins to carry out the act or offense.
§ 23 Criminal Liability for the Attempt
(1)     The attempt to commit a felony is always punishable, whereby the attempt to commit a misdemeanor is only punishable if expressly stipulated by the law.
(2)     The attempt may be punished more leniently than the completed act or offense (§ 49, Sec. 1).
(3)     If the perpetrator, due to a gross lack of judgment, has failed to realize that the attempt could not possibly be completed because of the type of object against which, or the means by which, the act or offense was to be committed, then the court may withhold punishment or mitigate the punishment at its discretion (§ 49, Sec. 2).
§ 24 Abandonment
(1)     Whoever voluntarily abandons the further carrying out of the act or offense or who prevents its completion will not be punished for the attempt. If the act or offense is not completed without action by the abandoning individual, then such individual will not be punished provided that he voluntarily and earnestly strives to prevent the completion.
(2)     If more than one person participates in the act or offense, then whoever voluntarily prevents its completion will not be punished for the attempt. However, his voluntary and earnest efforts to prevent the completion of the act or offense will suffice for exemption from punishment if the act or offense is not completed without his action or is committed independently of his earlier contribution to the offense.
§ 49 Special Statutory Grounds for Mitigation
(1)     The following will apply for mitigation if such mitigation is prescribed or allowed under this provision:
1.     Imprisonment for not less than three years in place of life imprisonment.
2.     No more than three-quarters of the maximum sentence in cases of fixed terms of imprisonment. The same applies for the maximum number of daily rates in the case of fines.
3.     The increased minimum sentence of imprisonment is lowered
  • to two years in the case of a minimum of ten or five years;
  • to six months in the case of a minimum of three or two years;
  • to three months in the case of a minimum of one year;
  • and to the statutory minimum in other cases.
(2)     Should the court decide to reduce the punishment at its discretion according to a law that refers to this provision, then it may reduce such to the statutory minimum of the prescribed punishment or substitute a fine instead of imprisonment.
Key Cases: 

Legal precedent regarding HIV exposure and transmission was set in Germany in 1988, when the Federal Supreme Court decided that unprotected sexual intercourse with another person amounted to attempted dangerous bodily injury and could therefore be criminal. It did not matter that infection did not occur; as long as a person was aware of being HIV positive, they would be committing a crime if they had unprotected sex.

In 2008, the lower court in Nürtingen (Baden-Württemberg) found that a heterosexual man (a migrant from Cameroon) was not guilty of attempted grievous bodily harm for having unprotected sex with his ex-girlfriend, because he was on effective antiretroviral therapy with an undectable viral load and was not infectious. The same month a gay man also on effective antiretroviral therapy with an undectable viral load was found guilty of attempted grievous bodily harm by a court in Munich for having unprotected sex with another man.  He received a six month suspended sentence later reduced to community service. Since then, prosecutions for HIV exposure alone do not appear to have taken place - but HIV exposure along with allegations of HIV transmission still appear to be prosecuted.

In August 2009 a court in Würzburg, Bavaria found a 41 year-old man originally from Kenya guilty of HIV exposure (attempted grievious bodily harm) for a second time. Already serving a five-and-half-year sentence imposed in 2007 for having unprotected sex without disclosure with seven women, of whom two are now HIV-positive, the man was sentenced to a further eight years in prison after pleading guilty to having unprotected sex with three women, including a 13-year-old girl. For more on this case, see: Criminal HIV Transmission.

The most infamous case in Germany involved pop singer Nadja Benaissa. Arrested in April 2009, she was formally charged in February 2010 with one case of grievious bodily harm and two cases of attempted grievious bodily harm for having unprotected sex with three men between 2004 and 2006, without disclosing her HIV-positive status.  One of the men apparently acquired HIV from Benaissa.  In August 2010, she was found guilty and given a two year suspended sentence plus 300 hours of community service.  For more on the Benaissa case, and the widespread media attention it created, see: Criminal HIV Transmission.

In March 2010, an untested gay man that claimed he was HIV-negative when he apparently "should have been aware he might have been HIV-positive because of a risky past" was found guilty of grievious bodily harm in Rastatt (his partner apparently acquired HIV from him) and received a 2 1/2 year prison sentence.

In November 2011, the Augsburg District Court awarded €75,000 in a civil case to a gay man whose partner was found to be criminally liable for his HIV acquisition. The man had previously been convicted by a Munich court of grievous bodily harm in July 2010 and had received a 15 month suspended sentence.

 Current case (Bavaria: Munich): Soldier ’infected two men with HIV’ – The Local December 6, 2013. A German soldier serving jail time for deliberately infecting a sexual partner with HIV was in court again on Thursday. He is accused of giving the virus to a second soldier after having sex with him in a Bavarian barracks. The former sergeant had already been found guilty of infecting a 28-year-old man with HIV and is serving two years and three months in prison. He was in Munich's state court once again on Thursday, accused of dangerous bodily harm after knowingly infecting a second man. who is also a solider, with the virus. He apparently met the 34-year-old online in September 2009 and the pair agreed to meet at the army barracks in Pöcking, Bavaria, where he was then based, the Münchner Merkur reported.

 

 Judge Oliver Ottmann heard how the 34-year-old asked the suspect twice before having sex at the barracks “whether he was healthy”. Both times he said yes. Two months later, the soldier sent his one-time sexual partner a text message apologizing and saying he had HIV. He claims not to have known at the time they had sex. But the victim already knew before the text was sent, after being told by a former lover of the ex-sergeant. After this the victim went to a state prosecutor and the case re-opened.

 

In court on Thursday the suspect told his victim, “I'm sorry, everything went wrong.” Being knowingly infected with HIV can result in compensation of around €75,000. The case continues. Source: Soldier 'infected two men with HIV'. 6 Dec 2013 http://minivannews.com/society/police-arrest-hiv-positive-prostitute-3177

Discussion: 

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, in collaboration with Cologne lawyer Jacob Hösl have produced an extensive analysis of cases and legal decisions from the first known prosecution in 1987 until 2010. (See above, 'Collection of Judgments: Criminal Law and HIV' by Jacob Hösl (in German)

In addition, a table with cases reported until 2011 is attached below.  Curiously, it does not include the Nadja Benaissa case nor a 2008 case from Berlin reported on Criminal HIV Transmission.

Of note, 35 cases involving 34 individuals have been recorded since the first known prosecution of a female sex worker for alleged HIV exposure in Munich in May 1987.  Until the Nadja Benaissa case in 2009-10, all other defendants had been male.  Following Benaissa's arrest, two further women were prosecuted.

Demographic details of 29 of the 30 male defendants are available. Of the 20 men charged for heterosexual exposure or transmission, five were non-German nationals (2 from the United States, 3 from African countries) and three were men who acquired HIV through drug use.  Of the nine men charged for same-sex exposure or transmission, two were involved in sex work. 

The maximum sentence was ten years (US heterosexual man, Stuttgart, 2001) where transmission was alleged in four cases and exposure alleged in 20 cases.

In March 2012, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe produced a position paper on HIV criminalisation, available in German and English (see below).

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe also provides some information on HIV and the criminal law in English on its website.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, Berlin.

Organisations working on HIV and the Law:

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe is able to offer practical support to defendants by offering psychological support and referring people to specialised lawyers if required.

Cologne-based lawyer, Jacob Hösl (ra.hoesl [at] t-online.de) has much practical experience with HIV and the criminal law.  An interview with Hösl (in German) is attached below.

Further reading: 

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe's extensive web site (German language only) offers additional resources on HIV and the criminal law.

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

Laws and regulations relating to entry, stay or residence in the country: 

Entry regulations: No specific regulations for people with HIV/AIDS

Residence regulations: Germany is a Federal State. Regulations may differ for various states.

Bavaria

  • Foreigners intending to stay for more than 180 days in Bavaria may be requested to undergo an HIV test. This measure is applicable in Bavaria only. The execution of such a test lies within the remit of the responsible officer and can only be done in case of concrete suspicion. The test also includes tuberculosis and syphilis.
  • Citizens of the European Union and Switzerland are exempt from this regulation.                    

For updated information, please go to: www.hivrestrictions.org

Laws relating to same sex, sexual relations: 

Male to Male relationships: Legal

Punishments for male to male relationships:  No law

Female to Female Relationships: Legal

Age of consent:  Equal for heterosexuals and homosexuals

Marriage and Substitutes for Marriage: Equal/almost equal substitute nationally recognized

For updated information, please go to: http://ilga.org