Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Virginia governor signs law making strangulation a felony

On behalf of The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Earlier this month, Virginia made it a felony under particular conditions to strangle someone with the knowledge that doing so is cutting off that person's breathing. Virginia now joins a growing list of approximately 30 other states that have passed similar laws within the last 10 years. The laws have been lauded by those who support increased penalties for instances of domestic violence.

But others, including some defense attorneys, have expressed caution about the new laws. While recognizing that domestic violence is not to be condoned, they have argued that some of the laws allow for prosecution without anything more than an accusation. Strangulation is a serious act, but can leave little physical proof on the alleged victim. It is possible that cases could be brought where the evidence presented is little more than one person's word against another, and now the potential criminal consequences are much greater.

Proponents of the laws have even acknowledged that proof could be a problem in some cases. They have suggested that law enforcement officers undergo additional training so that they can spot the sometimes subtle signs of an alleged instance of strangulation. These can include bruising, marks, bloodshot eyes and a hoarse voice. Even so, some of these symptoms could arise in the absence of strangulation, further complicating matters of proof.

Domestic violence is a serious and highly emotional crime. Yet it is important to remember that even in the most intense of cases, jurors are required to coolly and impartially evaluate whether the prosecution has carried its high burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: Associated Press, "States cracking down on strangulation attempts," May 13, 2012.

Tags: domestic violence, legislation, strangulation

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