In New Jersey, a person is guilty of domestic violence strangulation (aggravated assault) if he:  “[k]nowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly obstructs the breathing or blood circulation of a person who, with respect to the actor, meets the definition of a victim of domestic violence . . . by applying pressure on the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of such person, thereby causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13).

Effective July 12, 2021, the Legislature amended the statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13),  and elevated the crime of domestic violence strangulation, from a third-degree offense punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000, to a second-degree felony offense punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $150,000 fine.  L. 2021, c. 172, § 1.

In support of the amendment, the Legislature in its Statement to Senate Bill 2503 (May 28, 2020), referred to the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality Near Fatality Review Board’s 2018 annual report, in which the Board had

declared that strangulation is one of the strongest predictors for the subsequent homicide of victims of domestic violence, and referenced research showing that victims of attempted strangulation are seven times more likely of becoming a homicide victim, when compared to victims without a strangulation history, and that non-fatal strangulation are tactics used by abusers in a coercive manner against their victims as a method of power and control.

New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, “defines domestic violence by referring to a list of predicate acts that are otherwise found within the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.  See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a).”  J.D. v. M.D.F., 207 N.J. 458, 473 (2011).  The Domestic Violence Act “provides that the commission of a predicate act, if the plaintiff meets the definition of a “victim of domestic violence,” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d), constitutes domestic violence and authorizes the court to impose restraints, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-26, and related forms of relief, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b),” including a final restraining order (FRO).  Ibid.

Although the term “strangulation” is not specifically referenced in the Domestic Violence Act–assault under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1, which includes strangulation (aggravated assault) N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13), is a predicate act under the Act.  It is also notable that the degree of harm required under domestic violence strangulation is that “by applying pressure on the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of such person,” the individual caused or attempted to cause “bodily injury.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(13).  “Bodily Injury,” is defined under the code simply to mean “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1.

If facing domestic violence strangulation charges, you should immediately reach out to our team of experienced former prosecutors to schedule a free case review with one of our expert criminal defense attorneys.  A complete understanding of both criminal law and the recent change to the statute by your attorney is crucial to your defense. Your rights and freedoms are in jeopardy, and you owe it to yourself to act. We are available to provide immediate assistance and further counsel on your criminal case at (862) 315-7929.