(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Troy Singleton, Joseph Lagana, Pamela Lampitt, Elizabeth Muoio, Marlene Caride, Gabriela Mosquera and Cleopatra Tucker to raise the penalty for the crime of strangulation in domestic violence cases has been signed into law.
While strangulation cases are not limited to domestic violence situations, studies show a high incidence of strangulation in domestic violence cases. According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, a program of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, strangulation is one of the best predictors for the subsequent homicide of victims of domestic violence. In fact, one study showed that "the odds of becoming an attempted homicide increased by about seven-fold for women who had been strangled by their partner."
"This is a violent tactic often used against domestic violence victims by their abusers. It can have a debilitating psychological effect on the victim, and at worst, lead to death," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "The fact that the harshest punishment for this crime was at most six months in jail and a fine was ludicrous. The risk of serious injury or worse from a strangulation assault warrants a higher penalty."
The law (A-2061) elevates strangulation assault to a third degree crime with no presumption of non-imprisonment if the strangulation occurs during the course of the commission of an act of domestic violence, regardless of whether serious bodily injury results. A crime of the third degree is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
"Strangulation may not leave obvious external injuries like other forms of abuse, but it is still painful physically and mentally," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Toughening the penalty for this crime helps protect women who are victimized by keeping their abusers away for a longer period of time."
"There was no justice in a few months spent in jail and a fine for an assault that is terrifying, renders the victim powerless and in the worst cases, can end a life," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Enhancing the penalty for this type of assault is only right considering the potential repercussions of such an attack."
"When somebody strangles another person, cutting off that person's air supply, there is no doubt that the intent is to threaten that person's very life," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. "The consequence of potentially almost killing someone in New Jersey has to be more than a few months of imprisonment."
"Strangulation is an appalling crime that centers on exercising the ultimate control over another person. It's about showing someone that his or her life, quite literally, is in your hands, which abusers consider a source of power," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Increasing the punishment for this kind of behavior will protect victims of domestic violence and make it clear that our state does not tolerate this violence."
"Clearly anyone who goes so far as to strangle someone they claim to love has the potential to kill," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). "A six-month slap on the wrist simply is not enough of a punishment."
"Domestic violence, fundamentally, is about instilling fear in the victim, and few fears are more ominous than the fear of being strangled to death," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Six months in prison is far from a penalty that fits this crime. In addition to protecting victims, this law will help ensure that children in a home do not have to witness such heinous behavior."
"Approximately one in four female domestic violence victims has experienced at least one strangulation assault by a male partner in her lifetime, and this is considered a conservative estimate," said Tucker (D-Essex). "With this law, New Jersey takes a stand against domestic violence in one of its most lethal forms."