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Originally published June 19 2012

New York court rules bodily fluids are not deadly weapons

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A 48-year-old, HIV-positive New York man who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer has officially been vindicated of these charges. Setting a shocking new precedent in the state of New York, a top court in the Empire State has ruled that even though the infected man bit a police officer's finger, exposing him to a potentially deadly virus, neither body parts nor bodily fluids can be considered "dangerous instruments" in aggravated assault charges, even when they are used during a crime.

According to the Associated Press (AP), David Plunkett had been charged with aggravated assault after he punched a police officer in the face and bit his finger, breaking the skin, back in 2006 at a medical clinic in upstate New York. Plunkett, who is HIV-positive, allegedly also defecated, urinated, and bled during the scuffle with officers who were trying to arrest him for a disturbance, potentially exposing them to his disease.

The officers reportedly pressed charges against Plunkett that went beyond the explicit injuries he caused, claiming he tried to use his bodily fluids as deadly weapons. And a lower court initially convicted Plunkett of these charges, sentencing him to ten years in prison, a portion of which he has already served.

The New York Court of Appeals, however, had a different opinion. After reviewing the case, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, along with six other judges, decided Plunkett could not have been guilty of aggravated assault because he did not possess a deadly weapon at the time of the incident. Because of this, the court has dismissed the conviction and sent it back to a lower court for re-sentencing.

This top court had already ruled back in 1999 that body parts like teeth and fingernails do not constitute deadly weapons because they are part of a person's body. Now, the court has essentially added bodily fluids like saliva and urine to this deadly weapon exemption as well, citing that their "utility for penal enhancement may not be treated differently" than body parts.

"I think the decision will place not only the general public but certainly our first responders -- be it police, firefighters, EMTs or paramedics -- in grave danger in the future," said Jeffrey Carpenter, Herkimer County Assistant District Attorney, who disagrees with the court's decision.

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