What are the Penalties for Strangulation When Charged With a Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts?
A charge of Strangulation will accompany a charge of domestic assault and battery; it is an enhanced charge based on the nature of the incident. This charge is a felony offense.
A strangulation charge is no different from any other domestic assault and battery charge in terms of how it can be defended. The charge has an enhanced penalties because it essentially alleges a more serious and violent assault and battery.
A Massachusetts criminal lawyer will pursue the same strategy in attempting to resolve the case.
- It did not happen; the victim fabricated the allegations for some ulterior motive. In this type of situation, the defendant would mostly likely have to go to trial.
- A defense lawyer could assert that while an assault and battery occurred, it was not a strangulation but rather a misdemeanor assault and battery. In this case, the defense may seek a plea on a lesser charge.
- Is the victim on board with the case and or can the Commonwealth prove the case without the cooperation of the victim?
- Is there a 911 tape that would be admissible allowing the case to proceed without the victim? When there is a 911 tape, an important stage in the case is the motion in liming to keep the 911 tape out on the grounds that it violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation.
- Did the accused client make any statements that help the Commonwealth prove the case and is there a motion to suppress available to exclude those statements from evidence.
A strangulation charge will make the underlying cases harder to resolve; the district attorney's will be less likely to reduce or agree to any dismissal of the charge given that the legislation passed this law to enhance penalties for domestic assault and battery. This law was passed in 2014.
Under the new law strangulation is defined as the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying substantial pressure on the throat or neck of another. M.G.L. Ch. 265, § 15D(a).
Prior to the new law when faced with an alleged victim who had said they were strangled, the prosecutor had to choose to charge the defendant with either attempted murder or simple assault and battery. Attempted murder charges are difficult to prove and require that the prosecutor prove a specific intent to kill. A simple assault and battery is a misdemeanor. The prosecutors were left with choosing between an extremely difficult case to prove or a much less serious charge.
The new law allows prosecutors to charge the defendant with a felony for first offense strangulation. The penalties for strangulation under the new include up to five years in state prison or two and a half years in the house of corrections. A felony has life long consequences. A convicted felon is ineligible for certain jobs and must submit a DNA sample.
If the offense is charged as a second offense, if the strangulation results in serious injuries, if the strangulation is charged in violation of an active restraining order or if the alleged victim is pregnant the defendant faces up to ten years in state prison or two and a half years in the house of correction.
While a Strangulation charge could be brought over an Attempted Murder, in many cases it will be a way to overcharge a domestic assault and battery. It may also be used to bolster the charges.
For example the prosecution may add it as an incentive for the defendant to plea to the domestic to avoid the strangulation charge. The law is still new so we have yet to see which way it will be used. For now it is important to understand that the law exists and could lead to a felony charge.
If you have questions about a Strangulation charge or any domestic assault and battery, feel free to call Attorney DelSignore or Attorney Julie Gaudreau at 781-686-5924.
To read more about defending domestic assault and battery case, visit these pages for further reading.