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What Is Strangulation Law?

In Pennsylvania, a strangulation charge is very serious. If you are charged with strangulation, the penalties you might face will depend on the situation, your relationship to the alleged victim, and any other offense with which you might also be charged. People who are charged with strangulation offenses should retain defense attorneys for help with defending against the cases against them. An attorney at DiCindio Law can help you to understand your charges and the potential defenses that might be available to you.

Strangulation defined

The crime of strangulation is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2718. Under this statute, you can be charged with strangulation if you intentionally or knowingly impede another person’s ability to breathe or his or her blood circulation by blocking his or her mouth and nose or applying pressure to his or her neck. It is not a defense to this crime that the victim was not physically injured.

Penalties for strangulation

The penalties you might face for a strangulation conviction will depend on the facts and circumstances and your relationship to the other person. If you are convicted of this offense when the victim was not a member of your household, and the act occurred when you were not using a weapon, and you were not engaged in stalking, human trafficking, or sexual violence, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor strangulation as a first offense, you will face the following potential penalties:

  • Misdemeanor on your record
  • Prison from one to two years
  • Fine of up to $5,000

Strangulation is a felony of the second degree if the victim was a member of your household with one of the following relationships to you:

  • Spouse
  • Former spouse
  • Intimate partner/Former intimate partner
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Sibling
  • Another blood relative
  • Child of an intimate partner

It is also a second-degree felony if you strangled a person for whom you served as a caretaker or if you strangled a person you were stalking, trafficking, or engaged in an act of sexual violence.

If you are convicted of second-degree felony strangulation, you will face the following penalties:

  • Felony on your record
  • Prison from five to 10 years
  • Fine of up to $25,000

Strangulation can also be charged as a first-degree felony if you strangled a victim who had active protection against an abuse order, protection against sexual violence order, or protection against intimidation order against you. You can similarly be charged with the first-degree felony strangulation if you used a weapon or illegal body armor to commit the crime or if you have a prior conviction for strangling a household member or a care-dependent person.

If you are convicted of strangulation as a first-degree felony offense, you will face the following penalties:

  • Felony on your record
  • Prison from 10 to 20 years
  • Fine of up to $25,000

Strangulation might also be charged together with other crimes, depending on the facts and circumstances of what happened. For example, if you strangled someone you were stalking, you could also be charged with stalking. If you strangled someone with the intent to cause his or her death, but he or she did not die, you could be charged with attempted murder and strangulation. Finally, if you strangled someone with the intent to murder him or her, and he or she died, you could also face murder charges.

Defenses to strangulation charges

While strangulation charges are serious, it is possible to defend against them. The strangulation statute lists an affirmative defense that applies when the alleged victim consented to the conduct. To raise an affirmative defense, you will have to present evidence at trial to show that the victim consented to be strangled. This type of situation might occur when two people consensually engage in rough sex that includes choking.

Some strangulation cases that do not involve physical injuries might only consist of the victim’s statements against the defendant without any witnesses. In this type of situation, a defense lawyer might carefully examine the alleged victim’s credibility and challenge it in court. For example, if the alleged victim is your estranged spouse, he or she might falsely accuse you of strangulation to try to get the upper hand in a divorce or custody case. If that applies in your case, your attorney might want to look at your family court documents to try to identify the alleged victim’s motivation to lie.

In the case of a stranger attack, eyewitness identification procedures might be used by the police to try to identify a suspect. If the police used a lineup procedure to identify you, your attorney might carefully analyze the procedure that was used to identify any flaws. False eyewitness identifications have resulted in wrongful convictions, and your attorney might file a motion to challenge the lineup procedure used to identify you in court. A flawed identification procedure might result in a dismissal of the charges against you.

Another potential defense is an alibi defense. If you can present evidence that you were somewhere else at the time of the crime and could not possibly have committed it, you might be able to win a dismissal of your charges. The evidence will need to be trustworthy and reliable. For example, you might present surveillance video of you shopping in a store, plane tickets, hotel receipts, and credible witnesses who can attest that you were elsewhere when the alleged victim was strangled.

Talk to a criminal defense lawyer

Strangulation charges are very serious. If you are facing this type of charge, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. Call our office today at (610) 430-3535 to learn about the defenses that might be available in your case.

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Michael DiCindio

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