Those in favor of making it a felony believe abusers deserve more than a slap on the wrist when severe choking occurs, while those who oppose the bill fear the felony charge will be loosely tossed around, which is a problem when it comes to false complaints.
Prosecutors and police have long been frustrated by the legal system regarding choking cases – victims can suffer brain damage, even come close to dying, but often show no outward sign. Generally, assault and battery crimes that rise to the level of a felony include significant physical evidence such as bruising, blood or broken bones.
Experts note that choking often precedes murder, and that most victims of choking have experienced it more than once in an abusive relationship.
Nearly 30 states have made strangulation and choking (or “knowingly impeding someone’s breathing”) a felony over the last 10 years. The state of New York took the law the furthest by requiring no physical proof of injury. Instead, police officers are trained to notice other signs of strangulation that might not include bruising and marks around the neck.
There are also hold-out states where lawmakers believe there are enough protections in place for victims of domestic abuse. Many criminal defense attorneys believe the idea of accusing someone of a felony charge without physical evidence will undermine the fairness of the system. In other words, fair trials in the area of domestic violence should not rest on “he said, she said” accusations.
There is an obvious need to protect victims of domestic abuse. There is an equal need to maintain a level playing field for those accused of domestic abuse. We’ll have to see how the felony charge of choking plays out.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.