Many strangulation cases filed in Pennsylvania involve allegations of domestic violence. When the alleged victim of a strangulation offense has a specific relationship with the alleged perpetrator, the case might be considered to be a domestic violence offense. Some people who are charged with strangulation of a domestic partner or another member of their household think that the charges against them can be dismissed by the alleged victims. However, that is not how the law works in Pennsylvania. If you are facing strangulation charges, you should get help from an attorney at DiCindio Law and not rely on the victim in your case being able to dismiss the charges against you.
Can an alleged victim drop strangulation charges?
An alleged victim cannot drop strangulation charges or any other types of criminal charges of which you might be accused. Once a crime is reported to the police, the police will arrive and investigate the case. They will then make any arrests that they believe are supported by probable cause. If you are arrested for strangulation, the prosecutor will make the decision of whether or not you should be criminally charged based on the evidence the police have gathered against you.
Prosecutors have independent discretion about whether or not to bring criminal charges. However, that does not mean that the victim’s reticence to testify will be enough to get your charges dismissed. After strangulation charges have been filed, it is not up to the victim whether to go forward with the case. Instead, the decision is left up to the district attorney in your case.
If you try to coerce or intimidate the alleged victim in your case to try to get your charges dropped or to skip court, you could face additional charges.
Understanding strangulation charges in Pennsylvania
Strangulation is a specifically listed offense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2718. Under this statute, you can be charged with strangulation when you intentionally or knowingly impede someone else’s blood circulation or breathing ability by covering his or her mouth and nose or by applying pressure to his or her neck.
It does not matter if the other person was physically injured or not. Even if the alleged victim did not have any marks on his or her neck or any other type of injury, you can still be charged with strangulation based on the alleged victim’s accusation.
What are the penalties for strangulation?
The penalties you might face for strangulation will depend on your relationship to the alleged victim and a few other factors. If you are charged with strangling a person who was unrelated to you and with whom you did not live, it is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to five years in prison. However, strangulation can be charged as a felony under several different situations.
You can be charged with a second-degree felony strangulation offense if you strangled someone who was a member of your family or household. You can also face a second-degree felony if you strangled a care-dependent person as his or her caretaker or strangled someone during an act of sexual violence, human trafficking, or stalking. Second-degree felony strangulation carries up to 10 years in prison.
You can face first-degree felony charges for strangulation in the following situations:
- You were the subject of a protection from abuse order when you strangled the victim listed in that order.
- You used a prohibited weapon during the strangulation.
- You had a prior conviction for strangulation.
A first-degree felony conviction for strangulation will carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Will a strangulation charge get dismissed if the alleged victim doesn’t appear in court?
Whether or not a case might be dismissed if the alleged victim does not show up in court will depend on several things. If the victim fails to appear at trial, and the prosecutor thinks that he or she might not be able to prove the case without the victim’s testimony, the prosecutor might drop the case.
However, most prosecutors will try to secure the victim’s presence in court to testify.
He or she might tell the victim that he or she must appear and serve him or her with a subpoena. If the victim fails to show up after being properly served, the prosecutor might ask for a material witness warrant for the victim’s arrest. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant.
If you do anything to try to get the alleged victim not to show up in court, the prosecutor might investigate you for witness tampering. Under , you can face felony charges if you try to coerce or intimidate a victim or witness in a criminal case against you. You can face charges if you try to encourage the victim to give false testimony, skip the trial, or withhold information.
Victim’s testimony is not always necessary
The prosecutor also might try to prove the case against you using other evidence. He or she might introduce testimony from others to whom the victim made statements. While these types of statements would normally be considered inadmissible hearsay, they can be admitted if they meet an exception to the hearsay rule. For example, any statement the victim previously made
under oath is not considered to be hearsay. If the alleged victim made a statement that is considered to be an excited utterance about the strangulation while he or she was still under the stress caused by the event, it would also be considered to be an exception to the hearsay rule.
The prosecutor might also bring in evidence of any confession you made or the testimony of independent witnesses who saw what happened. He or she might also introduce the 911 recording and evidence of any visible injuries that the alleged victim suffered.
Consult with a criminal defense lawyer
If you are facing strangulation charges, you should not count on the victim’s ability to get your charges dropped. Instead, you should concentrate on mounting a vigorous defense against your charges with the help of an experienced defense attorney. Call DiCindio Law at (610) 430-3535 to learn about how we might be able to help you.