STRANGULATION AND CHOKING CHARGES IN PENNSYLVANIA

In 2016, Pennsylvania adopted Act 111 which makes the crime of strangulation a separate criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Under prior law, an accusation of choking or strangulation with minimal injuries would have been charged as a simple assault or harassment offense. 

If you are facing strangulation or other domestic violence charges, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm LLC right away at 412-447-5580 and speak with former domestic violence crimes prosecutor Dave Zuckerman today. 

CRIME OF STRANGULATION DEFINED

The Strangulation statute is found under Title 18, Section 2718 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. A person commits a strangulation offense if he or she knowingly or intentionally impedes the breathing or blood circulation of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose and mouth of the person. 

Strangulation has three gradings that apply as follows: 

  • 1st Degree Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if
    • The offender was subject to a Protection From Abuse or protection order that protects the victim who was strangled;
    • The offender used a Prohibited Offensive Weapon during the strangulation; or
    • The offender has been previously convicted of strangulation.
  • 2nd Degree Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison if the act was committed under the following circumstances
    • Against a Family or Household Member: Under the domestic relations code, a household member includes: 
      • Spouses or ex-spouses;
      • Those living as spouses, even if unmarried;
      • Current and former sexual partners;
      • Parents and children;
      • Persons related by blood or other affinity (i.e. adoption);
      • Persons sharing biological parenthood
    • Caretakers: By a caretaker against a care-dependent person, or an adult who suffers from a physical or mental disability that requires assistance for food, shelter, clothing, personal or health care. 
    • Occurrence With Sexual Violence: If the strangulation occurred in connection with a crime of sexual violence
    • Occurrence With Stalking: If the strangulation occurred in connection with stalking
    • Human Trafficking: If the strangulation occurred in connection with human trafficking
  • 1st Degree Misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison if the strangulation occurred under other circumstances not subject to the felony enhancement, such as between unrelated persons not living together.

DOES THE PROSECUTION HAVE TO PROVE PHYSICAL INJURY? 

No. The statute provides that the prosecution does not have to prove physical injury as an element of the offense. The lack or absence of injury to your accuser is not a defense. However, consenting to being choked is an affirmative defense. The statute specifically eliminates the requirement to prove physical injury, as victim advocacy groups have indicated that signs of physical harm are often not left behind during strangulation incidents.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL PENALTIES FOR STRANGULATION? 

Given the fact that most strangulation cases involve domestic partners, and will be graded as felony offenses, there are many serious penalties, which may include: 

  • State prison or county jail time;
  • Long periods of probation or parole supervision;
  • Permanent felony or misdemeanor record;
  • Loss of voting rights;
  • Loss of right to own or carry firearms;
  • Loss of employment and housing opportunities.

HOW ZLF CAN HELP DEFEND AGAINST A STRANGULATION CHARGE

Most strangulation cases will be prosecuted based upon the testimony of your accuser, or in other words, that he or she was choked and that his or her breathing was impaired. In some instances, there will be evidence of markings, surveillance video which captured the incident, or other eyewitness testimony that corroborates the victim's testimony. 

Similar to many domestic violence cases, strangulation charges may have been filed based upon a misunderstanding, out of a situation where you defended yourself, or based upon fabricated claims altogether. 

For personalized, aggressive representation on your strangulation or other domestic violence charges, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm LLC today at 412-447-5580. As a former violent crimes prosecutor, Attorney Dave Zuckerman will work to build your defense and minimize consequences, with one or more of the following goals in mind: 

  • Pursue a full dismissal, withdrawal or not guilty verdict;
  • Work to negotiate a pre-trial agreement to complete anger management classes for a withdrawal or reduction of the charges to summary offenses;
  • Work to negotiate a withdrawal of this charge during plea negotiations.

Call us today - 412-447-5580.