How Serious is a Crime of Strangulation in New Jersey

Accused of Strangulation in Monmouth County

Over the last decade, domestic violence allegations as a whole have been the center of a lot of attention of the legislature in New Jersey. Regardless of whether the allegations were of an assault, stalkingharassmentcyber-harassment or terroristic threats, they have routinely been underreported and as a result, under-prosecuted. Over the years, the legislature has tried to bring awareness to these types of crimes and have urged law enforcement to take them more seriously. They have instilled the importance of thoroughly investigating domestic violence allegations, especially since they were finding that the victim’s would often undercut the severity of the incidents. When it comes to investigating domestic violence assault claims, there has been a lot of focus on strangulation. In fact, local law enforcement agencies throughout Monmouth County have received specialized training in order to better spot these types of crimes. Another major step in protecting victim’s of domestic violence assault came in July of this year when the legislature decided to increase the penalties for strangulation when it is classified as domestic violence.

Facing a Charge of Strangulation in New Jersey 2C:12-1b(13)

Anyone accused of strangling and/or choking a protected party under New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act (see below) will be charged with aggravated assault. The crime of aggravated assault has numerous subsections within and each subsection covers a different type of conduct. NJSA 2C:12-1b(13) is the subsection that specifically covers strangulation allegations. It states in pertinent part:

Knowingly or, under 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.

As you can see from reading above, it does not take much for an individual to be charged under this subsection. In fact, the prosecution is only required to establish that bodily injury  was “caused or attempted to be caused” by the defendant’s actions. Bodily injury has been defined as the following: physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.

Who Can Be a Victim of Strangulation in a Domestic Violence Case in New Jersey?

As stated above, in order to be facing the enhanced penalties when it comes too strangulation, it must be established that the alleged victim is a protected party under New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Pursuant to NJSA 2C:25-19, in order to be classified as a victim of domestic violence, the victim must be a present or former household member of the Defendant; or they must have a child in common or they are expecting to have a child in common with the Defendant; or lastly they are currently or were previously in a dating relationship with the Defendant.

Can there be Jail Time for Strangulation in New Jersey?

On July 13, 2021, NJSA 2C:12-1(b)(13) has been elevated from a crime of the third degree to a crime of the second degree. This is a major increase in potential exposure. For instance, anyone convicted of a crime of the third degree would be facing anywhere from three to five years in a prison and a fine up to $15,000. If the defendant had no prior criminal record then there is a presumption against imprisonment that would apply. That presumption can be overcome but it would be very tough for the prosecution to do. It is important to note here to that that presumption does not apply to county jail sentences, which can range up to 364 days. Conversely, anyone convicted of a crime of the second degree would be facing anywhere from 5 to 10 years in a State Prison and a fine up to $150,000. Regardless of whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or not there is a presumption for incarceration that would apply.  Likewise, the defense could overcome that presumption as well but it is very difficult to do. In other words, not only does the potential exposure change drastically but the likelihood of incarceration does as well. As you can see, this is a major shift in the law.

In enacting the Bill, the legislature stated:

In 2019, the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality Near Fatality Review Board published the 2018 Annual Report, Fatality By Strangulation.  In the domestic violence context, the report declared that strangulation is one of the strongest predictors for the subsequent homicide of victims of domestic violence, and referenced research showing that victims of attempted strangulation are seven times more likely of becoming a homicide victim, when compared to victims without a strangulation history, and that non-fatal strangulation are tactics used by abusers in a coercive manner against their victims as a method of power and control.

What is the Bail for a Strangulation Case in New Jersey?

The vast majority of domestic violence criminal complaints signed in New Jersey get issued on what is known as a Complaint-Warrant. That means that the defendant will be required to be taken to the County Jail for at least 24-48 hours so that pretrial services can conduct their interview and create a public safety assessment. Based on that report and assessment, the County Prosecutor’s office has to determine by the defendant’s central judicial processing hearing whether or not they will be filing for detention. If they file for detention that means that they are seeking to keep the defendant detained in the County Jail, without bail, pending trial. If a detention motion is filed, typically speaking, the defendant would have a formal hearing on bail within 5 days. It will then be up to the Judge to decided if the defendant can be released on bail pending trial. If the allegation is one of strangulation it is almost certain that the defendant will be charged under a Complaint-Warrant and will need to go through the above process.

Restraining Order based on Strangulation Allegations in Monmouth County

If the alleged victim of strangulation is considered a protected party under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act they would have the ability, if they so choose, to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). If a TRO is obtained, this would be in addition to any criminal charges that may be filled. Furthermore, this is a separate proceeding and would be handled in a separate court proceeding. Also, if it is determined after a formal hearing that a Final Restraining Order (FRO) is necessary to protect the victim from further acts of domestic violence, the defendant would be subjected to a whole host of other consequences.

Speak to a Lawyer about Defending Felony Assault Strangulation Case in Freehold NJ

The Monmouth County criminal defense attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law have been defending those accused of crimes of domestic violence, including those charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, stalking, harassment, sexual assault, and false imprisonment in Courts throughout Monmouth County, NJ for over a decade. We understand the emotions and stress that most undergo when it comes to being dragged into court by a loved one. If you have been issued a criminal complaint for domestic violence or served with a restraining order in Monmouth County, in towns like Holmdel, Middletown, Freehold, Wall Township, Ocean Township, Colts Neck, Manalapan, Brielle, Red Bank or elsewhere, we can help. If you would like to set up a free initial consultation today, please contact our office at (732)-858-6959.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.