Choking Becomes Felony Offense In An Attempt to Increase Severity of Punishment in Domestic Abuse Cases
If you’ve ever been involved in a domestic dispute, you understand firsthand what a contentious issue domestic violence can be within the household, for law enforcement, and in the courtroom. Choking is recognized as a common form of violence used in domestic violence cases. Due to a lack of evidence often associated with choking cases, the punishment inflicted on those convicted tends to be rather minor. In order to impose more severe punishments for choking incidences, thirty states have initiated measures that permit choking or strangulation to be classified as a felony criminal offense.
Choking or strangulation impedes the ability to breathe and can reduce the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain. As a result, choking can cause permanent brain damage and other physical injuries. A major complaint of police officers and prosecutors is that enough physical evidence isn’t involved in these cases to support pursuing charges of a higher offense. When the violent act is only prosecuted as a misdemeanor, there is the fear that the offender will likely repeat the violent act against the victim since the criminal punishment is minor. People who support the legislation believe that choking should be a felonious act since it can cause severe medical complications for the victim and in some incidences it can cause a victim to nearly die.
Criminal punishment for misdemeanors does not exceed more than one year in jail. Punishments may also include paying a fine, probation, and enrollment in a program that addresses domestic violence or anger management issues. Felonies are considered more dangerous or serious crimes that can entail multiple years in prison, higher fines, and strict parole terms.
If you believe in the theory that harsher punishments deter crime or reduce repeat offenses, then it can be argued that enacting the felony choking legislation is justifiable. But criminal defense attorneys and anyone who has ever been falsely accused of domestic violence charges have expressed some concerns with the new laws. The way the law is enforced could cause a lot of harm, especially when false accusations are made and significant physical evidence doesn’t need to be presented in order to pursue felony charges.
Domestic violence cases are so difficult to handle because they involve people who have strong personal ties to each other. Those relationships tend to have a history of divisiveness that existed for quite a bit of time before law enforcement ever got involved. Criminal and constitutional laws are created to not only protect victims and the general public but to also protect the rights of the accused. Making sure the law enforcement and judicial systems maintain a sense of fairness is a priority for many criminal defense attorneys. If cases can be prosecuted as felony offenses based on a person’s testimony and with very little physical evidence to support the claims, it could undermine the criminal justice system.
Domestic violence victims need the support of law enforcement and prosecutors, but reducing the burden of proof required in choking cases can jeopardize the ability of the accused to protect their rights and adequately assert their innocence in a court of law. If you are facing domestic violence charges and need legal assistance, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Fighting the criminal charges without a strong advocate on your side can seriously put your freedom and livelihood at risk.