What to Know About Pittsburgh Strangulation Charges
If you’re facing strangulation charges in Pittsburgh, you might be left feeling confused and hurt by the accusations. Perhaps an ex is trying to get revenge, or a consensual act is being used against you. No matter the reasons behind the charge, you need an experienced defense attorney who can help you avoid a conviction.
Learn more about Pittsburgh strangulation charges and the impact a conviction could have on your future.
Pennsylvania Strangulation Laws
In 2016, Pennsylvania adopted Act 111, making strangulation a standalone offense from other domestic battery crimes. Under this law, strangulation is a second-degree misdemeanor offense. It increases to a felony if certain aggravating factors are present, such as if the victim is a relative or romantic partner.
The purpose of Act 111 is to impose harsher penalties for strangulation, as this form of abuse can be particularly dangerous for victims.
According to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code Title 18 § 2718, strangulation occurs when someone “knowingly or intentionally impedes the breathing or circulation of the blood of another person.” This can involve “applying pressure to the throat or neck” or “blocking the nose and mouth of the person.”
- Wrapping a belt, rope, scarf, or other object around someone else’s neck
- Manual strangulation with one or both hands
- Stepping or kneeling on someone’s throat to apply pressure
- Putting someone in a chokehold using the arms, e.g., a “sleeper hold” or headlock
Under this definition, strangulation does not have to result in physical injury. Restricting someone else’s blood circulation or breathing is enough to result in a charge. As a result, it’s often your word against the alleged victim’s. You will need an aggressive lawyer to protect your rights and help you build a solid defense.
Penalties for Strangulation in Pennsylvania
The penalties for strangulation will depend on the severity of the offense and the circumstances involved. Below are the three different gradings:
Strangulation is considered a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania when there are no aggravating factors. The penalties include up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.
A strangulation offense could be enhanced to a second-degree felony if any of the following aggravating factors apply:
- The offense is committed against a “family or household member” (as defined in 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102)
- A caretaker commits the offense against a care-dependent person
- The offense is done in conjunction with sexual violence, stalking, or a crime related to human trafficking under 30 Pa.C.S. § 3011
A second-degree felony in Pennsylvania can bring up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
First-degree felony strangulation occurs when:
- The victim has an active protection from abuse order (as defined in 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 61) against the defendant
- The victim has an active sexual violence or intimidation protection order (as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 62A) against the defendant
- The defendant uses an instrument of crime during the strangulation offense
- The defendant has previously been convicted of a similar offense
If convicted, you could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years and pay a fine of up to $25,000.
Outside of the legal penalties, a strangulation charge can negatively impact the rest of your life. For example, you could lose child custody and miss out on job opportunities. In addition, you might experience strained relationships with family and friends as a result of your conviction. You can protect your rights and future by seeking out an experienced defense attorney.
How to Defend Against Strangulation Charges in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, prosecutors will not have to prove you caused physical injury to charge you with strangulation. As a result, saying no harm was done is not an effective defense.
One of the most effective defenses against a strangulation charge in Pittsburgh is that the act was consensual. However, you will need sufficient evidence to back this up. Your attorney can gather discovery to identify contradictions in the alleged victim’s account, possible motives for them to falsely accuse you, or other factors to support your strangulation defense.
A Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney will be critical throughout the legal process if you’ve been accused of strangulation. Prosecutors will likely seek the maximum punishments due to the severity of this crime. To avoid the worst outcome, you must have someone on your side to fight for you.
Charged with Strangulation? Call Our Pittsburgh Lawyers ASAP.
A strangulation conviction carries serious consequences in Pittsburgh and should not be taken lightly. If you’re charged, you are in a vulnerable position with your future on the line. You must act fast and secure the help of an experienced and knowledgeable strangulation defense attorney. At Worgul, Sarna, & Ness, we’ve helped countless clients fight criminal charges in Pennsylvania, and we’re here to help you too.
Contact Worgul, Sarna, & Ness LLC at (412) 281-2146 to schedule an initial consultation.