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Strangulation or Suffocation

Strangulation or Suffocation: Mass. General Laws c. 265, § 15D

In 2012, Massachusetts lawmakers created the crime of strangulation or suffocation, which prior to that time could not be charged as its own crime. Mass. General Laws Chapter 265, § 15D, states:

“Whoever strangles or suffocates another person shall be punished . . . .”

The law requires prosecutors to prove, for strangulation that:

  1. The person applies substantial pressure on the throat or neck of the alleged victim;
  2. The pressure, without excuse, interferes with the circulation of blood or breathing of the alleged victim; and
  3. The person acts intentionally.

For suffocation, the law requires that the prosecutor prove:

  1. The person blocks the nose or mouth of the alleged victim;
  2. The blocking, without excuse, interferes with the circulation of blood or breathing of the alleged victim; and
  3. The person acts intentionally.

Prior to the passing of section 15D, strangulation or suffocation (commonly referred to as “choking”) was either charged as **PLEASE LINK** assault and battery, or attempted murder. The new law makes this crime a felony offense, but one that can be punished in the district court. What that means is that the potential consequences for someone who is charged with this crime are much more severe than before this new bill was passed.

These charges are taken seriously by prosecutors, the police, and many judges. An allegation of this charge may lead to requests from ADAs for high bail, strict conditional release, or even an argument that a person charged with this offense should not be released from custody until the trial is over. A skilled criminal defense attorney can give you advice on what arguments need to be made at the arraignment if the Assistant District Attorney is seeking bail.

Consequences of Strangulation or Suffocation Charges

The potential punishment for a conviction of this offense is up to 5 years in prison, 2 1/2 years in jail, or a fine of up to $5,000. However, if the crime is committed on someone who is pregnant, protected by a restraining order, has previously been convicted of this crime, or causes serious bodily injury, the crime can be punished by up to 10 years in state prison or a fine of $10,000.

Most often these cases arise out of allegations of domestic violence. This can be seen very clearly where any period of probation mandates that a person attend and complete a “certified batters program,” now referred to as the intimate partner abuse education programs. These programs can be very difficult, lengthy, and expensive. So even being able to avoid a conviction or jail time can result in a significant burden on a person’s life.

Strangulation or Suffocation Defense

As these cases usually arise out of complicated problems surrounding domestic relationships, the defenses to these charges are often the same as any domestic violence charge. Common defenses include self-defense, arguments that the alleged victim is lying, or that the technical requirements of this offense did not occur. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer, who has a history of defending charges of strangulation or suffocation, is important towards building a winning defense strategy.

Lowell Strangulation and Suffocation Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime involving allegations that you strangled or suffocated someone, contact Lowell Criminal Defense Attorney Ryan Sullivan today. Attorney Sullivan can discuss the charges, the potential outcomes, the likely defense, and start working with you to create a tailored strategy for your case.

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