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State’s New Strangulation Law Leads to More Felony Assault Charges

We are currently in the first full year under Pennsylvania’s new strangulation law. Since the first person was arrested under the law in January 2017, approximately 60 people have been charged with strangulation in Cumberland County alone. This caused felony assault charges to double in the county compared to 2016.

This is consistent with statewide trends. There has been a significant increase in the number of felony assault charges issued this year, largely due to the new legislation.

The law, which the legislature passed near the end of 2016, criminalizes the act of applying pressure to a person’s neck or throat or blocking the mouth or nose in a specific effort to impede his or her breathing or circulation.

Although the crime is a second-degree misdemeanor, it can escalate to a felony in some cases, such as when the victim is a family member. To that end, it has given prosecutors new tools to get tougher on offenders charged with domestic violence.

Why did the state enact the law?

In addition providing more protection for domestic violence victims, state legislators were influenced by a study indicating that nonfatal strangulation is associated with confrontations escalating to homicides. The study came from Dr. Nancy Glass at Johns Hopkins University. Victims of nonfatal strangulation analyzed in the study were six times more likely to become victims of attempted homicide and seven times more likely to be killed.

It’s apparent that the new Pennsylvania law is having implications on those charged with certain crimes in the state. To learn more about your options if you are facing serious charges, meet with skilled Berks County criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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