In the past, those convicted of strangulation in cases of domestic violence received a misdemeanor with light penalties in instances where the individual was not killed. As of July 1, when "Strangulation Bill" went into effect, that has changed. Passing unanimously in both houses of the state legislature and signed not long after by Governor Bill Haslam, the new law makes strangulation a type of aggravated assault, which is a felony crime with a sentence between three to six years in jail.
Supporters of the measure say the goal is to protect victims of domestic violence. Strangulation is a common offense in these abusive relationships, and lawmakers felt the previous penalties were too lenient to actually prevent the crime.
National Institute of Health statistics show that strangulation victims are seven times more likely to be murdered, even if the chocking has occurred only once previously in the relationship. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reported two deaths in 2009 from domestic violence, down from nine in 2007 and seven in 2008. The TBI also notes that 50 percent of the crimes against people in the state are for domestic violence.
Advocates note that under the prior law, the light penalties associated with the crime did little to stop or prevent future abuse. Even in severe cases, there was little the law allowed the courts to do.
Prior to the passage of this law, many people accused of strangulation would forgo representation by a lawyer, plead guilty to the charges and move on with their lives, regardless of their guilt or innocence. Simply taking the light penalties is no longer advisable.
Because the penalties are now so strict, it is even more important than ever to have legal representation if accused of strangulation. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to explore your legal options.