Accused of Choking a Significant Other in New Jersey
Facing a Strangulation Charge in Somerset County
Domestic violence is by far one of the more underreported crimes in the Country and New Jersey is no exception. They also tend to be some of the more difficult type of cases for prosecutor’s to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court. As a result, there has been a strong push by law enforcement to better investigate these types of cases in an effort to better combat the increase in these types of allegations. It is also no secret that the prevention of domestic violence has been the forefront of New Jersey legislatures for years. That could not have been any more evident in July of this year when they choose to elevate the penalties for strangulation charges when it comes to domestic violence. This is after the 2017 Bail Reform Act which basically mandated that anyone arrested for any crime of domestic violence be charged on a Complaint-Warrant, which requires them to spend at least 24-48 hours in the County jail until pretrial services can conduct their release risk assessment. As you will see below, anyone charged with strangulation / choking contrary to New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act will now be facing a second degree indictable offense (felony). The incarceration exposure jumps from a potential of three to five years to a presumption of five to ten years. Regardless of whether you are charged with domestic violence simple assault, harassment, terroristic threats, stalking, aggravated assault and cyber-harassment, we strongly urge you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your options. Here is some more information about the new strangulation charges in New Jersey.
How Serious are Choking Charges in New Jersey? Is it a Felony Offense?
In 2017 the crime of strangulation under New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Prevention Act was considered upgraded from a simple assault to a third degree aggravated assault. This upgraded the charges from a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) up to an indictable offense (felony). Then yet again in 2021 the crime strangulation in the domestic violence context was upgraded from a third degree felony offense to a second degree felony offense. So in a matter of four years, the potential exposure for someone convicted of strangulation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13) went from a possible six months in the County Jail to up to a decade in Prison. This just goes to show how serious New Jersey now takes strangulation allegations.
What to Expect in Court on a Strangulation Charge in Somerset County?
New Jersey breaks down assault charges into two different categories: simple assault and aggravated assault. They further breakdown aggravated assault charges into numerous different subsections based on the conduct alleged and the status of the victim (i.e. Police Officer, Teacher). The subsection that will govern strangulation allegations is N.J.S.A. 2C:12(b)(13). In pertinent part, this statute states:
Knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly obstructs the breathing or blood circulation of a person who, with respect to the actor, meets the definition of a victim of domestic violence, as defined in subsection d. of section 3 of , by applying pressure on the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of such person, thereby causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.
As you can see it does not take much to be charged under this subsection. One key area when it comes to defending these types of allegations is determining what the intent was of the defendant and could their actions be considered recklessly. Furthermore, was the individual actually defending themselves and not the initial aggressor. These cases typically do not involve independent fact witnesses and will usually will boil down to the physical evidence, meaning any injuries sustained as well as the credibility of the parties.
Can Strangulation Be Used to Obtain a Restraining Order?
It is important to remember if the strangulation falls under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act then the victim could be entitled to a temporary restraining order (TRO). If a TRO is imposed, this would be in addition to the criminal charge and would be litigated in a separate court proceeding. Once a TRO is granted a final restraining order hearing must be conducted, usually within 10 days of the issuance. Although the same facts tend to be litigated in each proceeding, these are separate hearings and they carry with them their own significant consequences. Furthermore, it is important to remember what an individual testifies to during the restraining order hearing could in certain circumstances be used against in any future criminal proceeding.
How Much Jail Time is there For a Choking Charge in NJ?
As previously stated, NJSA 2C:12-1(b)(13) is considered a second degree indictable offense in New Jersey. Anyone convicted under this subsection will be facing anywhere from five to ten years in a New Jersey State Prison, a fine up to $150,000 and a permanent criminal record. Since this is a second degree felony a presumption of imprisonment would apply. Furthermore, since this would qualify as a crime of domestic violence, the individual would also forfeit their ability to ever own firearms as well.
Need to Consult with a Lawyer for Strangulation Case in NJ
The criminal defense attorneys at Proetta, Oliver and Fay fully understand what is at stake when an individual is charged with a crime of domestic violence, let alone when the charge is as serious as strangulation. It goes without saying that the applicable penalties associated with a strangulation allegation are life changing. As such, our attorneys are dedicated to aggressively defending these types of allegations. If you or a loved one has been charged with any crime of domestic violence, including false imprisonment, aggravated assault, harassment, sexual assault or simple assault in Somerset or Hunterdon County, we can help. If you would like to set up a free initial consultation today, please contact our office at 908.533.1064.