"An Act relating to the definition of 'dangerous instrument' as applied within the criminal code. "
"This bill recognizes strangulation as a serious life threatening assault warranting felony prosecution. I urge your support."
- Rep. Hawker
House Bill 219 specifically permits felony prosecution for an assault involving strangulation or suffocation. Strangulation is one of the top five risk factors for domestic violence homicide and is the cause of ten percent of homicide deaths in the United States. Yet, many cases have not been prosecuted as felonies due to physical evidence requirements that may not be relevant in strangulation assaults.
Strangulation can cause life-threatening injuries without obvious external marks that can be photographed and presented to a jury as evidence of "serious physical injury," which is required by current statute for felony assault. Forensic science proves that even in some fatal cases of strangulation there is no external evidence of injury. The cause of death was determined during autopsy, when the chance to photograph and collect untainted evidence had passed.
Without visible injuries, many cases are tried as misdemeanors even though the victim was minutes from death. Unconsciousness can occur within ten seconds, followed closely by irreversible brain damage and death within five minutes. Lack of oxygen can also cause internal injuries, including brain damage, which can lead to death hours, days or even weeks after the crime.
When strangulation occurs in a domestic relationship, it is indicative of a high level of violence within the relationship. In recent years, strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence - a domestic violence victim who has been strangled is nine times more likely to be killed than one who has not.
This bill recognizes strangulation as a serious life threatening assault warranting felony prosecution. I urge your support.