PA District Attorneys Laud Passage of Bill that Makes Strangulation a Stand Alone Crime and Felony

October 21, 2016

HARRISBURG, PA – District Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania lauded new legislation that makes strangulation a stand-alone crime and a felony offense.  House Bill 1581 has passed the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.  The bill makes it a crime to intentionally or knowingly impede another person’s breathing or circulation by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose and mouth.

“Strangulation victims represent some of our most vulnerable populations: children and the elderly, human trafficking victims, domestic violence victims, and sex workers,” said Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) President and Lebanon County District Attorney David J. Arnold, Jr.  “Pennsylvania needed this bill to better protect victims of potentially deadly abuse and hold perpetrators of such potentially lethal acts accountable.”

Under existing law it is 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 are 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.

“As prosecutors, we have seen too many perpetrators of strangulation escape the consequences of their actions,” Arnold continued. “On behalf of the victims of crime we represent, we want to thank Representative Becky Corbin for helping us fix this problem.”

Arnold noted that strangulation is too often the weapon of choice for domestic violence perpetrators.  The vulnerability of victims and potentially deadly consequences are well documented:

  • If a victim has been strangled previously, he or she is 7 times more likely to become a victim of homicide;
  • 43% of domestic violence homicide victims and 45% of domestic violence attempted-homicide victims have been strangled in the past year by their killer/partner;
  • 68% of abused women who go to a shelter for domestic violence have been strangled—each woman, on average, having been strangled 5.3 times previously.

“By making strangulation a felony the law will more appropriate reflect the gravity and potentially deadly nature of this offense,” Arnold said.  “We urge Governor Wolf to sign this bill and put perpetrators of this crime on notice that their days of inflicting fear and intimidation upon their victims are over, and they will face justice.”