States Tightening Laws on Non-fatal Choking by LawCrossing


Last week Virginia passed a law making non-fatal choking a felony. New York passed a law in 2010 making non-fatal choking a class “C” misdemeanor requiring no proof of injury.

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States Tightening Laws on Non-fatal Choking

Choking or strangulation remains one of the most common offenses in domestic violence, but it is improperly
addressed in many states. Over the last decade, about 30 states have passed laws making non-fatal choking
a felony. The most recent states to join the list are Iowa, California, South Dakota and Tennessee. Last week,
Virginia passed a similar law. New York passed a law in 2010 that also holds that in domestic violence, non-fatal
choking can be a class “C” misdemeanor requiring no proof of injury. That law resulted in 11,000 charges within
its first 14 months.

05/14/12                                                         marks on the woman’s throat, no evidence of bruising.
                                                                 Just the verbal allegation and all of a sudden, there’s a
The laws against strangulation and non-fatal choking             felony charge.”
in domestic violence are urged by activists and
spearheaded by the National Family Justice Center                Many anti-strangulation laws across the country do not
Alliance. The group helps lawmakers across the country           require physical injury – but only the proof that the
to draft bills, identify witnesses and hold seminars for         attacker tried to harm or induce fear.
the police. The executive director of the group, Gael
Strack is a former prosecutor. In a recent interview,            Taking into account the domestic violence situation,
Strack told the media that when a victim survives                the federal government has provided a $400,000
strangulation, no one “seeks the blood or the bruising           grant from the U.S. Justice Department to the NFJCA
or swelling … it’s hard for them to understand that              for funding an anti-strangulation training institute.
she’s just like the victim who was stabbed or shot and           According to the executive director of NFJCA, “The
survived.”                                                       victim needs to be able to get away, and part of that
                                                                 is having the perpetrator be held accountable … the
However, there are people who oppose steps like                  perpetrator needs to know that it’s not OK and he’s not
misdemeanors without proof as in New York, or the                going to keep getting away.”
government intruding too much into domestic lives
that could easily patch up. William Omansky, a former            Anti-domestic-violence groups seem happy with the
domestic violence prosecutor and defense lawyer told             efforts of the government and the states in passing
the media, “Domestic violence is always bad, but the             new laws, but defense lawyers are still concerned of
way I see it commonly prosecuted, there’s no ligature            the creation of felonies that do not require proof.


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