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PA District Attorneys Association Urges Passage of Strangulation Law to Better Protect Victims

Harrisburg, PA  — Strangulation is a violent crime, and the law should fully recognize this dangerous form of physical violence the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) said today.  Legislation that would codify the existing crime of strangulation into Pennsylvania law passed the state House yesterday. The PDAA urges the Senate to take action on the bill this spring.

“Strangulation is one of the most dangerous crimes,” said PDAA President and Butler County District Attorney Richard A. Goldinger. “Pennsylvania needs this bill because it will help better protect some of our most vulnerable victims of crime.”

HB 854 would ensure that a prior strangulation conviction is recognized and considered upon the occurrence of subsequent related events and judicial procedures.  In doing so, the violent crime of strangulation would be fully codified into Pennsylvania law and prosecutors would be permitted to provide juries and judges with a complete accounting of an accused perpetrator’s known violent tendencies. It was only as recently as 2016 that strangulation was added to the Pennsylvania crimes code as a primary offense.

“Too often strangulation is the weapon of choice against children and the elderly, human trafficking victims, domestic violence victims and sex workers, and too often it is lethal,” Goldinger said. “This legislation would ensure that strangulation convictions are recognized in law the same way that convictions for equally violent offenses, like aggravated assault, are recognized.

Before the 2016 change, it was extremely difficult to arrest and prosecute people accused of strangling their victims.  While strangulation is extremely dangerous and can result in unconsciousness within seconds and death within minutes, there is often no visible physical injury.  Without this proof, prosecutors were often left with a low-level misdemeanor offense that does not reflect the gravity of the crime and leaves the victim vulnerable to further abuse.

PDAA thanked the bill’s sponsor, Representative Torren C. Ecker and the House Judiciary chairs, Representatives Rob Kauffman (R) and Tim Briggs (D) for the leadership that resulted in an overwhelming majority vote (188-10) in the House.  The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

PDAA is joined by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) in support of the bill. HB 854 is one of several victim-centered bills supported by the PDAA, including reforms to the rape shield and tender years laws, and Marsy’s Law, a bill that would elevate victims’ rights to the Pennsylvania constitution.

 

Contact: Lindsay Vaughan, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association lvaughan@pdaa.org or (717) 238-5416.