Pennsylvania legislators recently enacted a new law that imposes stricter penalties for certain domestic violence charges. Notably, the updated strangulation statute now classifies choking a domestic partner or family member as a felony under certain circumstances. Previously, choking was only considered a misdemeanor, referred to as simple assault, as long as no bodily injury occurred. However, with the implementation of this law, penalties for domestic violence assault have become more severe, depending on the specific situation.
Definition of Strangulation
Let’s delve into the definition of strangulation as provided by the Pennsylvania Criminal Code:
“Knowingly or intentionally impeding the breathing or circulation of another person by:
- Applying pressure to the throat or neck, or
- Blocking the nose and mouth of the person.”
With this revised law, prosecutors are no longer required to prove the presence of physical injury. Moreover, the offender’s attorney is prohibited from using the lack of physical injury as a defense on behalf of the victim.
This change streamlines the process for prosecutors by establishing a more direct strangulation charge, rather than pursuing an aggravated assault charge. The latter necessitates evidence that the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and took corresponding actions. In the past, a Washington PA criminal attorney could argue, for instance, that no physical injury resulted from alleged choking, thereby challenging the defendant’s intent. However, such a defense does not hold weight in cases of strangulation.
With the introduction of this updated legislation, the new law presents a stronger argument against anyone accused of committing strangulation, ultimately promoting justice and accountability.
Feel free to reach out to a Washington PA DUI attorney if you have any concerns or questions regarding this matter.
Consequences for Strangulation Convictions
Strangulation convictions can have serious ramifications, even though there are no mandatory minimum sentences. Exploring the various degrees of this offense and the potential consequences they entail provides valuable insights:
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: By default, strangulation is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor.
- Second-Degree Felony: If the victim is a family member or belongs to the defendant’s household, or if there has been a prior sexual relationship between the victim and the defendant, the offense escalates to a second-degree felony.
- First-Degree Felony: Strangulation becomes a first-degree felony under three circumstances: when the defendant has a prior strangulation conviction when a Protection from Abuse order is violated during the act of strangulation, or when a weapon is used in conjunction with the offense.
The penalties vary depending on the degree of the offense. Second-degree misdemeanors can result in prison sentences of up to two years, while second-degree felonies can lead to prison terms of up to ten years. First-degree felonies carry the most severe punishment, with potential prison terms of up to twenty years. It is crucial to note that judges have discretion in sentencing due to the absence of mandatory minimums, resulting in a spectrum of punishments ranging from probation to incarceration. Furthermore, individuals convicted of domestic violence are restricted from possessing firearms.
When it comes to proving strangulation, prosecutors now have an easier time. However, defendants still have several viable options for their defense. These options apply not only to strangulation charges but also to other domestic violence allegations. Of course, the specific circumstances of each case will determine the applicability of these defenses. Let’s delve into these options:
Self-Defense: If the defense can gather evidence showing that the alleged victim initiated the altercation, the defendant may argue self-defense. It is then the prosecution’s burden to conclusively disprove this claim. Failure to do so could lead to the defendant’s acquittal.
Pre-Trial Diversionary Programs: In cases where the alleged victim sustained no serious injuries, the prosecution may offer the defendant participation in a pre-trial diversionary program. Successful completion of program requirements, which may involve fines, community service, counseling sessions, and avoiding further arrests, can result in the dismissal of charges and the expungement of the defendant’s criminal record.
Credibility: Although physical harm is no longer a requirement for proving strangulation, it is crucial to demonstrate if the alleged victim is being dishonest about their account. For instance, if the victim claims to have been strangled for an extended period but exhibits no visible marks or bruises on their neck, the defense may present evidence suggesting fabrication. In addition, cross-examination allows the defense to uncover potential motives for falsifying the alleged attack, such as personal gain, jealousy, or immigration-related concerns. It is important to remember that every individual charged with a crime in Pennsylvania is entitled to a fair trial, either with a judge or a jury. Moreover, it is the duty of the prosecutors to establish each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. While the presence of an injury is not compulsory, if the judge or jury questions the credibility of the victim, it may ultimately result in an acquittal.
Get exceptional defense against domestic violence and domestic violence assault charges from Logue Law. Attorney Sean Logue and his accomplished team are here to represent you effectively. With a proven record of success, they possess all the necessary qualities to handle your case. If you are facing allegations of domestic violence strangulation, don’t hesitate to call 844.PITT.DUI or contact them online here to schedule a free initial consultation. Logue Law proudly serves Washington, PA, Ohio, and West Virginia. Trust in their expertise for your legal needs.
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