Strangulation or Suffocation (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, §15D)

Massachusetts domestic violence prosecutors often charge the specific offense of strangulation. Police who arrive for emergency calls of family disputes are trained to ask if there was any contact or grabbing of the alleged victim’s neck. If there was, the offense of strangulation will be added to a criminal complaint. The complaint will likely also allege assault and battery on a family or household member, intimidation of a witness and other Massachusetts 209A or domestic violence related violations.

Prosecutors cannot prove strangulation in Massachusetts simply with evidence that an accused person grabbed or touched another person’s neck. There also must be evidence that there was some difficulty breathing as a result, even it only slight and momentary. A better trained police officer will also ask if the conduct affected the alleged victim’s breathing during the alleged assault.

This conduct is also an assault and battery and possibly an attempted murder, if serious enough. It has always been a crime in Massachusetts to commit an assault and battery, or an attempted murder, by grabbing somebody’s neck or throat. As part of a larger domestic violence initiative, the Massachusetts legislature added this a specific crime.

Again, a person commits this offense if she causes the”intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying substantial pressure on the throat or neck of another,” or, in “suffocation,” if she causes “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by blocking the nose or mouth of another.” Grabbing an alleged victim’s neck doesn’t violate this statute unless there is some interference, even if minor, with that person’s breathing.

Strangulation or Suffocation in Massachusetts is a serious felony. You can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. A second offense of this crime carries a maximum penalty of ten years in state prison. You can also be sentenced to ten years in state prison for an “aggravated” commission of this offense, which involves committing the crime against a pregnant woman or causing serious bodily injury, or if the accused was a defendant in a protection or restraining order.

Contact our criminal defense law firm at 617 936-0201 if you’d like to discuss your strangulation or other related criminal complaint in Massachusetts.

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