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Strangulation laws get national attention

Across the country, changes are being made to the classification of strangulation. In many states, strangulation charges are still prosecuted as misdemeanors. Impeding someone's breathing without intent to cause fatal injuries was one of many behaviors charged as assault or battery. However, non-fatal choking, as it is referred to, is receiving some special attention in Michigan and across the country recently.

The act of impeding a person's breathing is very serious. However, in some cases it is not done in an attempt to fatally injure someone. Sometimes, it is a misguided effort to frighten a person. The intent is very different in each situation, and the intent is very important to determine for charges since there is no physical evidence to rely on.

Choking a person leaves no physical markings. Often, all that is needed is the victim's verbal allegation to prosecute a person. Without evidence of bruising or other physical markings, some people say that there is no objective proof that an injury was sustained. How, then, can a person be convicted of a felony? If all that is required to put a person in jail for a long time is a victim's statement, it is thought that there will be excessive prosecution with increased leverage to secure a guilty plea.

Opponents of the revised classification do not object to charging strangulation as a crime. Rather, they suggest that there are enough laws exist currently to address actions of domestic violence. Singling out one activity and reclassifying that one action as a felony across the board may not be as effective as supporters think.

The act of forcibly restricting a person's breathing is already abusive behavior. That alone may be grounds to charge a person with assault. However, classifying all forms of strangulation as a felony means that the charge can be prosecuted aggressively with no physical evidence.

Any charges of domestic violence, whether misdemeanors or felonies, should be taken very seriously. Regardless of if a person's intent is to fatally injure someone or frighten a person, it can be very difficult to face these charges alone. With a person's reputation, future and relationships at stake, it can be very important to secure strong legal support when facing accusations of assault.

Source: 9 and 10 News, "States cracking down on strangulation attempts," Eric Tucker, May 13, 2012

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