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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: April 10, 2015 02:57 PM
From: Representative Becky Corbin
To: All House members
Subject: Strangulation Legislation
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that will better protect victims of domestic violence from those who abuse them and hold these offenders accountable for their violent and sometimes deadly actions. Specifically, my proposal will create the crime of felony strangulation. If enacted, Pennsylvania would join the majority of other states, approximately 35, that have specifically criminalized the act of strangling another person.

Strangulation is among the most potentially deadly forms of intimate partner abuse. A 2001 study from the Journal of Emergency Medicine found that 10% of violent deaths in the United States could be attributed to strangulation and most victims were women. I also have learned that strangulation, unfortunately, is one of the more commonly used tactics by domestic abusers. One study reported that 47% of female domestic violence victims reported being choked. Chillingly, another study found that almost half of all domestic violence homicide victims had experienced at least one episode of attempted strangulation prior to the eventual homicide. Our police officers are being specifically trained to ask about and look for prior strangulation attempts when evaluating the risk for a future homicide. Put simply, strangulation is lethal and is one of the best predictors of a future homicide in domestic violence cases.

Strangulation is serious. Loss of consciousness can occur within 5-10 seconds and death within 4-5 minutes. These crimes are also very painful for the victims. The general clinical sequence of a victim who is being strangled is severe pain, followed by unconsciousness, followed by brain death.

But my legislation is needed for an additional reason: because most strangulation victims do not have visible injuries, strangulation cases can be minimized or difficult to prove. Oftentimes, there is no external injury that is evident.

Strangulation, therefore, does not neatly fit into existing criminal categories in Pennsylvania. While one can strangle someone nearly to death with no visible injury, our current laws do not account for this kind of behavior. The result is that perpetrators of strangulation are often faced only with low-level misdemeanors that do not reflect the serious nature of strangulation.

My proposal will allow us to hold the most dangerous of domestic violence abusers in Pennsylvania accountable for their crimes. It will reduce domestic violence homicides by increasing awareness of the seriousness of the crime itself and by punishing these offenders under a felony statute. Finally, Pennsylvania’s victims should not be treated worse by our laws than victims of the same crimes in a majority of other states.

This legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important measure to provide victims the protections they need and deserve.

Introduced as HB1581