Domestic violence is taken on by the legislature, prosecutors, and law enforcement in New Jersey as a serious public threat. Studies show that manual strangulation in domestic violence incidents indicates that future altercations will turn deadly, as many cases end tragically with the loss of life. Noting the correlation between strangulation and homicide, Governor Murphy signed legislation last year making strangulation assault in a domestic violence setting a second degree crime to better ensure public safety and save lives.
Strangulation and domestic violation often go together. When legislators enacted the bill last year to grade an assault by strangulation as a second degree crime, they noted that nearly half of domestic violence cases involve strangulation. In other words, lawmakers view strangulation as a warning sign of escalating violence, which is likely to lead to death. They see it as an indicator that more brutality is on the horizon. This is important, because now the consequences of being convicted of assault by strangulation are more severe than ever for those accused. Before the enactment of the new law, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13), assault by strangulation, was a third degree crime. Violators of the prior law were eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention and probation, since the presumption of non-imprisonment applies for first-time offenders. Unlike third degree indictable offenses, second degree crimes come with a presumption of imprisonment. They also come with longer prison sentences and higher fines. Considering the severity of the penalties for domestic violence strangulation in New Jersey, having an experienced and committed attorney defending you against these allegations is a must.
If you or someone you love is facing second degree criminal charges for assault by strangulation in Burlington County, get in touch with the team of defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver & Fay to talk to a lawyer immediately who can take a personalized and dedicated approach to your case. We take our clients’ freedoms, reputations, and futures very seriously so we provide an all-out effort when defending them against domestic violence accusations. We defend all types of domestic violence offenses in Burlington County, including strangulation offenses, as well as harassment, criminal restraint, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Our firm assists defendants in all Burlington County communities, such as Mount Holly, Burlington Township, Mount Laurel, Willingboro, Florence, Moorestown, Delanco, and Delran. For immediate assistance and to speak with an attorney about your choking charges at no cost, call our office in Evesham Township at 609-850-8284.
Strangulation, Choking, and Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation Crimes in NJ
The law on strangulation, found in section N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13), defines assault by strangulation as when someone intentionally or recklessly stops another from breathing or blood circulation by squeezing the throat or blocking off the nose of a person who qualifies as a victim under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. A prosecutor must prove that the accused obstructed the victim’s breathing or blood circulation, intentionally or without regard to the sanctity of the victim’s life. The state must also prove the victim is an intimate partner, spouse, ex-spouse, dating partner, house member, or parent to the victim’s child. A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all these elements apply to the defendant’s actions.
How Prosecutors Prove Strangulation Charges
Evidence may be victim testimony, eyewitness testimony, or photographs of neck bruises and abrasions. A defendant’s intentions, showing they knew or didn’t care whether they were threatening the victim’s life with their actions, may be inferred from the circumstances and evidence. In other words, the evidence must show that the person was sure they were cutting off the victim’s oxygen or blood circulation. The other possibility is that the defendant acted with extreme indifference to the value of the victim’s life, knowing the victim’s obstructed breathing or blood circulation would lead to severe harm. Proving an accused individual’s intent and knowledge of the effects of their actions on one with whom they were or are intimate leads to second degree convictions for strangulation, otherwise known as a choking offense.
New Jersey Punishment for Domestic Violence Choking Offenses
A second degree crime under this statute comes with a five (5) to ten (10) year prison term, plus $150,000.00 in fines maximally, a presumption of incarceration, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 85% of the term before the convicted person is eligible for parole under the No Early Release Act (NERA).
Diversionary Options in NJ Strangulation Cases
Further, a person charged with assault by strangulation is ineligible for Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), which allows a defendant to serve their term outside a prison in a supervised program. In any event, domestic violence charges disqualify a defendant from PTI unless the prosecuting attorney allows it. This means that your attorney can, in some cases, persuade the prosecutor to allow you to participate in the PTI program in lieu of going to prison. If you are allowed to submit an application and admitted to Pre-Trial Intervention, completing the program can offer you a one-chance opportunity to maintain a clean criminal record and stay out of jail. Drug court, which allows someone to rehabilitate in a particular program outside prison, is also unavailable to those who commit violent crimes. For all of these reasons, you need the most experienced, well-versed domestic violence defense lawyer you can find if you have been charged with strangulation in New Jersey.
Bail Hearings for Domestic Violence Choking Crimes of the Second Degree in NJ
Not only does a second degree crime come with a presumption of incarceration, but all domestic violence cases require detention hearings. That means, after a suspect’s arrest, they undergo an evaluation to determine whether they should return to the community or stay in jail pending the outcome of their charges. Factors influencing the judge’s decision to detain an accused are the danger they pose to the public, including the victim, and the likelihood that they will re-offend. With studies showing the cause-and-effect relationship between strangulation victims and further domestic violence abuse, a court may be more likely to detain a person accused of assault by strangulation. For a bail hearing in a choking case, it is crucial that your lawyer be prepared and fighting for your release from jail. Otherwise, you may be held in confinement until the conclusion of your case.
Restraining Orders based on Strangulation in Burlington County NJ
Domestic violence victims have second degree criminal penalties to rely on, but other legal protection means are at their disposal, too. They may apply for a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act on the grounds of assault by strangulation. A restraining order protects a domestic violence victim on an emergency basis, and a judge bases the remedy on victim testimony, among other considerations. A temporary restraining order (TRO) mandates a defendant to keep away from the victim and members of her household. That means they may not come near the victim or children they share, nor may they access their belongings or their home. Further, they may not be near the victim’s work or residence and may not text, talk, email, or otherwise communicate with the victim.
At the final restraining order hearing up to ten days after the temporary order, the court decides whether the TRO should become final. At that hearing, the defendant may appear and defend themselves with evidence and an attorney. A final restraining order (FRO) is permanent unless terminated by a court order. An FRO requires a named defendant to stay away from the plaintiff under penalty of criminal charges and new penalties for contempt of court. Depending on the circumstances, it may also order a restrained party to pay costs, child support, and other amounts. Lastly, an FRO requires a restrained party to surrender their firearms permanently.
False Strangulation Allegations and their Impact in New Jersey
When a victim needs protection, the strangulation law bolsters that protection. Unfortunately, warring partners may play dirty to win domestic battles. While some victims genuinely need protection and their abuser to stay imprisoned to save their lives, others do not suffer the harm described in the strangulation statute. They claim strangulation to exact revenge or out of anger. Since the court is inclined to grant TRO’s and take domestic violence cases seriously, an accused must go through the legal process, including detention, until they can get experienced defense representation. A legal professional with years of past experience defending domestic violence cases, such as ours at Proetta, Oliver & Fay, may be able to successfully prove that you did not strangle the victim, or the actions attributed to you as the choking abuser do not rise to strangulation or meet all of the elements of the crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13).
Consult with a Domestic Violence Strangulation Lawyer in Mount Laurel for Help
A domestic violence and criminal defense attorney at our Burlington County law office can help you or someone you love with defending the second degree criminal charge for strangulation, whether ultimately getting it dismissed or reduced. We can also assist you with defending against a restraining order based on choking charges, whether by raising doubt about the violent incident, discrediting witnesses, or fleshing out the plaintiff’s questionable intentions. If you have been arrested and charged with strangulation, stalking, cyber–harassment, simple assault, sexual assault, or another offense, call 609-850-8284 to speak with an attorney today. Our lawyers are committed to battling your assault by strangulation charges in Cinnaminson, Bordentown, Bass River, Riverside, Mansfield, Westampton, Burlington City, and other towns in Burlington County NJ. Just contact us anytime for a free consultation.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.
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New Jersey 08742
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