Strangulation Defense Lawyers in Morris County NJ
New Jersey lawmakers recently made the crime of strangulation more severe than ever before. Strangulation was originally a disorderly persons offense. In 2017, the legislature voted to make it a third-degree felony. In 2021, the law was changed to make strangulation a second degree crime.
There is a direct correlation between domestic abuse by strangulation and homicides. One in four women experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. According to research, domestic violence victims who have suffered assault by strangulation are seven times more likely to be victims of homicide. Nearly 50% of domestic violence victims who were killed had been strangled. That means that 5 out of 10 cases resulted in death. Those who survive are frequently subjected to repeated abuse and violence. Before changes in the law, offenders were more likely to be back on the streets, which lawmakers have seen as a risk to the community and their victims.
Details of the Shift to Second Degree Crime Classification for Strangulation in NJ
New Jersey chose to shift its focus onto domestic violence with a proactive law change. Prior to the new legislation, strangulation was a third-degree crime, carrying a penalty of 3 to 5 years, with a possibility of Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). Pre-trial intervention establishes a set of requirements such as community service, anger management, sober living (no drugs or alcohol), and monitoring by probation staff. Domestic violence offenders were released without having to do any jail time. With the new law in 2021, strangulation is now a second-degree crime with much stiffer sentences and a presumption of jail time.
Strangulation Assault in the Context of New Jersey Law
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13), strangulation is “[k]nowingly or, under the circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly obstructs the breathing or blood circulation of a person who, with respect to the actor, meets the definition of a victim of domestic violence, as defined in subsection d. of section 3 of P.L.1991, c. 261 ( C.2C:25-19 ), by applying pressure on the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of such person, thereby causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.”
Four Requirements That Need to be Proven for a Conviction
The state has to prove four things for a conviction for second degree aggravated assault by strangulation (asphyxia). The victim must be someone who was your partner, someone you resided with, your wife or husband, or someone with whom you had a dating relationship. This is what qualifies the crime as domestic violence. Secondly, the victim must have an obstructed airway or blood circulation. Thirdly, the obstruction must result from pressure being applied to the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth. Lastly, the offender must have a conscious knowledge that the victim’s breathing was obstructed or there was reckless behavior that showed indifference to the value of the person’s life.
Punishment for 2nd Degree Aggravated Assault by Strangulation in NJ
Aggravated assault by strangulation is a second-degree felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a possible fine of up to $150,000. There is a presumption of imprisonment; however, if the court decides for a special reason that incarceration is unjustified, a different decision could be made. There are parole restrictions because this crime falls under the NERA (No Early Release Act). The Accused is required to serve 85% of their sentence before their release can be contemplated.
Strangulation and the Challenges to Apply for a NJ Diversionary Program
New Jersey is known for its diversion programs that encourage rehabilitation and other tools to avoid incarcerating all offenders, especially if the crime is their first or is not violent. Pretrial Intervention (PTI) is usually not available as it is a second-degree crime; additionally, PTI is not available for domestic violence cases unless one obtains special permission from the prosecutor to make the application. This requires assistance from an experienced domestic violence defense attorney who has handled many strangulation and other domestic violence charges in the past. Drug court and the Veteran’s Diversion Program are not applicable in the case of strangulation.
Protective Orders for Domestic Violence Strangulation in NJ
A temporary restraining order, also known as a protective order, is granted in Family Court when the victim requests it. It is a civil order to prevent all contact between the victim and the defendant. No contact means no letters, texts, phone calls, messages, or contact through third parties. A final restraining order can be put into effect after a hearing in Family Court, and a judge will decide if it will be granted. Final restraining orders are permanent unless the victim requests that they no longer be in effect or the petitioner subject to the order goes through the process of convincing the court to remove the restraining order.
Failure to adhere to a restraining order can result in contempt of court charges. A first violation could mean a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. A second violation means a mandatory 30 days in jail. If the prosecutor presses felony charges for contempt, there is a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail. This instance is saved for violations that are acts of domestic violence, as opposed to violations involving contacting the victim, etc.
A no-contact order is signed when there is a criminal complaint against someone. It is a civil matter usually established as a bail condition. This order is generally placed on the defendant when the crime has a victim. It is most often used in cases of domestic violence. The order is removed once the defendant is acquitted or has completed all of the requirements of court (prison sentence and probation where applicable). The victim can request that the order be lifted. Violating a no-contact order can cause the defendant’s bail to be forfeited, and a contempt of court charge may be applied.
If You Are Dealing with Strangulation Accusations in Morris County, New Jersey, Contact our Morristown Office
Our experienced attorneys know how difficult it can be to be charged with a felony. The consequences of a conviction could be life-altering, leaving you with a permanent record and possible jail time. We have successfully represented strangulation cases and are ready to represent yours. Our lawyers will aggressively defend your case in Dover, Chatham, Parsippany, Roxbury, Randolph, Morristown, Denville, Boonton, Harding, or elsewhere in Morris County. We have ample experience with these allegations and have represented our clients in jury trials with confidence and acumen. Your reputation and freedom are at stake, and we are here to help you. Call us at (908)-336-5008 or contact us online. Consultations are no-cost and confidential.