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New law increases penalties for nonfatal strangulation of domestic partner

A new law signed this week by Gov. Chris Christie strengthens penalties on people who strangle their domestic partners, imposing a longer prison time and a larger fine.

Domestic violence experts say nonfatal strangulation is a leading precursor to domestic homicide. The Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, based in San Diego, says 68 percent of domestic violence victims will experience near-fatal strangulation by their partners.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sens. Linda Greenstein and Paul Sarlo, upgrades the offense of knowingly or recklessly obstructing the breathing or blood flow of a person with whom they are involved in a domestic relationship from a simple assault to aggravated assault.

“We have seen all too often the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against a spouse or partner get treated less severely than criminals who commit similar acts against strangers,” said Greenstein, D-Mercer, Middlesex. “Domestic violence is not only a family issue, but a criminal issue that affects our entire community, and strangulation is an act that the perpetrator knows can lead directly to death.”

Under current law, a person is guilty of simple assault if the person attempts to cause or causes bodily injury to another. Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

The new law changes strangulation of a domestic partner to a third-degree crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years or a fine up to $15,000, or both. It also eliminates the presumption of nonincarceration for a first offense of a third-degree crime.

The bill was approved unanimously by the full Senate and the full Assembly in October. It takes effect immediately.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.