Longer Jail Time for Strangulation in VA
RICHMOND, Va. - A new law set to go into effect in Virginia on Sunday will make the act of strangulation or choking a felony - a more serious offense than the Class 1 assault-and-battery misdemeanor charge now on the books.
One advocate for the new law, Michael Ducette, commonwealth attorney for the city of Lynchburg, says strangulation is common in domestic- and intimate-partner violence. Ducette is convinced that the new law will make the crime easier to prosecute, with longer jail times for those who are convicted.
"Choking or strangulation, whatever you want to call it, is physiologically and psychologically very different than just a mere assault, in the sense that it is the ultimate act of control. Someone who is strangling or choking another person really, literally, has their life in his hands."
Under current law, a person convicted of strangling someone gets a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail. The new law classifies strangulation as a "Felony 6," which means the possibility of one to five years in jail, in addition to the fine.
Mary Beth Pulsifer, community outreach coordinator for the Women's Resource Center in the New River Valley, says 60 percent of the domestic-violence victims that come through the shelter admit to being choked. She welcomes the tougher law.
"Because we do know that when strangulation is part of an assault, those are situations that are at higher risk for domestic-partner homicide, in the long run."
The new law also extends to people outside the household; it no longer is limited to a family member.
Pulsifer says victims of domestic or sexual violence can contact the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.