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New Jersey’s Strangulation Statute

December 07, 2022

New Jersey’s Strangulation Statute

New Jersey recently amended its strangulation statute to increase the grading of the criminal offense under state law. 

Grading of Strangulation Charge Recently Increased in New Jersey

In July 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill that increased the grading of the offense of assault by strangulation from a third-degree crime to a second-degree crime. Legislators passed the law to address the rise in strangulation crimes. They noted that under the prior law, domestic violence perpetrators who had previously committed assault by strangulation could be released from prison in as little as three years. By increasing the grading of the offense, legislators hoped to deter future incidents of assault by strangulation and keep dangerous domestic violence perpetrators out of society for longer. 

What is Strangulation?

In New Jersey, strangulation or assault by strangulation is an enumerated predicate offense of domestic violence. The offense of strangulation is defined as purposely, and without regard to life, stopping the breathing or blood circulation of another person by squeezing their throat or blocking respiration through the nose. 

Previously, strangulation was graded as a third-degree crime, which carries a potential sentence of three to five years imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $15,000.

Penalties for a Strangulation Conviction

Today, strangulation is now a second-degree crime, which carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $150,000. Second-degree crimes also have a presumption of incarceration, making it harder for convicted individuals to argue for a sentence that does not include prison time. 

In addition to a criminal conviction and sentence, a strangulation offense will also permit the victim to request the issuance of a restraining order. Strangulation victims may seek a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act if they have a covered domestic relationship with the perpetrator who is 18 years old or older, an emancipated minor, a pregnant minor, or a minor in military service. Covered relationships include:

  • Spouses and ex-spouses
  • Having lived in the same household now or in the past
  • Having or previously had a dating or intimate relationship
  • Having a child in common, including expecting a child during pregnancy

Courts will issue temporary restraining orders that remain in place until the court can hold a hearing to determine whether to issue a final restraining order. A final restraining order can remain in place indefinitely unless withdrawn at the protected person’s request or if the subject of the restraining order can show that it is no longer needed for the victim’s protection. 

Defenses to a Strangulation Charge

Because assault by strangulation is now treated as an even more serious criminal offense, it is critical to prepare an effective defense to a strangulation charge. Some legal defenses that a person charged with strangulation may raise include:

  • Self-defense, if the alleged victim was the instigator of the violent altercation
  • False report, if a claimed victim reports strangulation that did not occur to retaliate against someone they have a domestic relationship with
  • Consent, as strangulation may occur as a consensual sex act

Contact an Experienced Moorestown Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Strangulation Charges in New Jersey

Were you arrested or charged with strangulation in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Law Offices of Michele Finizio have successfully represented clients charged with strangulation in Evesham Township, Mount Laurel, Willingboro, Pemberton, and throughout New Jersey. Call (609) 230-0374 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 9 E. Main St., Moorestown, NJ 08057, as well as offices located in Cherry Hill.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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