Earlier this year, Pennsylvania joined a growing list of states that have made strangulation (or non-fatal choking) a felony offense with stiff penalties. The effort to define this brutal act as a felony was led by several anti-domestic violence groups that believe the law can lead to harsher punishments for domestic abusers and promote awareness of a crime that is often not prosecuted. The legislation was introduced by State Rep. Becky Corbin, who stated that strangulation was a cruel type of assault where victims experience fear and terror every time they lose and regain consciousness. Additionally, Rep. Corbin observed that strangulation is often perpetrated by someone who is intimately familiar with the victim.

According to a district attorney from Chester County who drafted the legislation, strangulation is a known red flag for an increased risk of extreme domestic violence – even homicide. Turning the offense into a felony sends a message to perpetrators that they will not easily get away with abusive behavior. With almost unanimous, bipartisan support, the house and senate approved the bill and the governor signed it into law last October, and its provisions are now in effect.

Domestic violence charges, including the new felony strangulation offense, are zealously investigated and prosecuted by Pennsylvania law enforcement and state attorneys. If you have been charged with any of these crimes, you may be facing long jail terms and fines, if convicted. Additionally, it can result in drastic collateral consequences, including limitations to your future employment prospects. Fienman Defense can provide you with a compassionate and experienced Philadelphia domestic violence lawyer who will fight to protect your rights and help you reach a favorable result.

Contact highly skilled defense attorney at (215) 839-9529 for an initial consultation.

Strangulation as an Indicator of Homicide

Proponents of this kind of legislation often point to studies that show strangulation as a pre-indicator for escalating domestic violence that later results in homicide. One study from the Journal of Emerging Medicine showed that non-fatal strangulation was reported in 45% of attempted homicides and 43% of homicides. Prior occurrences of strangulation may be associated with an almost six times higher likelihood of attempted murder and a seven times higher likelihood for completed murder. Another study also shows that strangulation has become an increasingly common form of domestic violence and that up to 68% of domestic violence victims have been strangled by their partners.

Strangulation in Pennsylvania

Normally, under Pennsylvania statute, a person who commits strangulation will be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor if he or she intentionally impedes the breathing or circulation of another by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or blocking the nose and mouth of the person. With the new legislation taking effect, the crime is now a 2nd-degree felony if it is:

  • Committed by the offender against a family or household member;
  • Committed by a caretaker against someone who is care-dependent; or
  • Committed by an offender in conjunction with sexual violence, stalking, or human trafficking.

2nd-degree felonies carry a possible prison term of up to ten years. If at the time the offense was committed, the defendant was subject to a domestic violence protective order that covers the victim, or has a prior strangulation conviction, then the offense is considered a 1st-degree felony punishable by more than ten years of jail time.

Fienman Defense Can Help You Today

Domestic violence charges carry a lot of negative stigmas, and prosecutors are prone to overreach in trying to achieve convictions relating to domestic violence. If you have been charged with felony strangulation or any domestic violence offense in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can craft an effective strategy for your case. Fienman Defense will work hard to objectively examine the facts behind the charges against you and effectively represent you in the courtroom.

Call Philadelphia domestic violence lawyer Michael Fienman at (215) 839-9529 to discuss your case and your legal options.

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