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October 30, 2016

Pennsylvania toughens domestic violence laws to include choking

Law enforcement in Pennsylvania will soon have another tool to combat domestic violence.

Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Wednesday a bill that designates strangulation as a form of assault and allows authorities to charge perpetrators with a felony in some scenarios.

“By signing this bill, I hope to prevent acts of non-lethal strangulation from later becoming domestic violence homicide and give law enforcement the tools they need to charge abusers to the fullest extent of the law,” Wolf said.

State Representative Becky Corbin, who represents parts of Chester County, sponsored the legislation to "close a loophole in state law that has allowed some domestic abusers to escape prosecution." The act of choking someone had not been specifically addressed by a criminal statute.

Strangulation is when a person "knowingly or intentionally impedes the breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or blocking the nose and mouth of a person," according to the new law.

A key provision in the legislation allows prosecutors to charge abusers even in cases where a physical injury is not apparent.

Strangulation behavior often leads to an increased risk of attempted homicide, according to a Journal of Emergency Medicine study.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 184-3 in April and by a unanimous vote on Oct. 18 in the Senate.

Pennsylvania is now the 36th state in the nation to recognize strangulation "as the violent crime it truly is,” Corbin said.

The law will go into effect 60 days after Wolf signed it.